The Vatican Information Service’s report on Benedict’s most recent General Audience, given today:
Vatican City, 6 February 2013 (VIS) – Continuing his catechesis on the symbol of Christian faith, the Holy Father’s General Audience today focused on the phrase “Creator of heaven and earth”, explained in light of the first chapter of Genesis.
“God,” the Pope said, “is the source of all things and the beauty of creation reveals the omnipotence of the loving Father. As the origin of life … He cares for what has He has created with unceasing love and faithfulness. Creation, therefore, becomes the place in which to know God’s omnipotence and goodness and becomes a call to faith for believers so that we might proclaim God as Creator. … In the light of faith, human intelligence can find the key to understanding the world In Sacred Scripture. Particularly … in the first chapter of Genesis, with the solemn presentation of divine creative action … The phrase ‘and God saw it was good’ is repeated six times. … Everything God creates is good, and beautiful, full of wisdom and love. God’s creative action brings order and infuses harmony and beauty into it. In the story of Genesis, it later says that the Lord created with His word and ten times in the text the phrase ‘God said’ is repeated… Life springs forth, the world exists, so that everything might obey the Word of God.”
“But does it still make sense to talk about creation,” the Pope wondered, “in this age of science and technology? The Bible isn’t intended to be a natural science manual. Its intention is to reveal the authentic and profound truth of things. The fundamental truth revealed in the stories of Genesis is that the world isn’t a collection of opposing forces, but has its origin and stability in the Logos, in God’s eternal reason, which continues to sustain the universe. There is a plan for the world that springs from this reason, from the Creator Spirit.”
“Men and women, human beings, the only ones capable of knowing and loving the Creator,” are the apex of all creation. “The creation stories in Genesis … help us to know God’s plan for humanity. First, they say that God formed man out of the clay of the ground. … This means that we are not God; we have not made ourselves; we are clay. But it also means that we come from the good earth by an act of the Creator. … Beyond any cultural and historical distinctions, beyond any social difference, we are one humanity, formed from the one earth of God who … blew the breath of life into the body He formed from the earth. … The human being is made in the image and likeness of God. … We carry within us His life-giving breath and all human life is under God’s special protection. This is the deepest reason for the inviolability of human dignity against any temptation to judge the person according to criteria of utility or power.”
In the first chapters of Genesis, “there are two significant images: the garden with the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and the serpent. The garden tells us that the reality that God has placed the human being within is not a savage forest, but a place that protects, nourishes, and sustains. Humanity must recognize the world, not as property to plunder and exploit, but as a gift from the Creator … to cultivate and care for respectfully, following its rhythms and logic, in accordance with God’s plan. The serpent is a figure derived from oriental fertility cults that fascinated Israel and that were a constant temptation to forsake the mysterious covenant with God.” That is why, “the serpent raised the suspicion that the covenant with God was a chain that … took away freedom and the most beautiful and precious things in life. The temptation becomes the building of a world of one’s own without accepting the limits of being a creature, the limits of good and evil, of morality. Dependence on the love of God the Creator is seen as a burden to be overthrown. … But when our relationship with God is distorted, when we put ourselves in His place, all our other relationships are altered. Then the other becomes a rival, a threat. Adam, after have succumbed to temptation, immediately accuses Eve. … The world is no longer the garden in which to live in harmony, but a place to exploit, one in which … envy and hatred of the other enter into our hearts.”
The Pope emphasized one last element of the creation stories. “Sin begets sin and all the sins of history are related. This aspect leads us to speak of what is called ‘original sin’. What is the meaning of this reality, which is so difficult to understand? … First, we must keep in mind that no person is closed in upon themselves. … We receive life from others, not only at birth, but every day. The human being is relational: I am only myself in you and through you, in the loving relationship with the You of God and the you of the other. Sin alters or destroys our relationship with God … taking the place of God … Once that fundamental relationship is altered, our other relationships are also compromised or destroyed. Sin ruins everything. Now, if the relational structure of humanity is altered from the beginning, all humans enter the world characterized by the alteration of that relationship; we enter into the world changed by sin, which marks us personally. The initial sin disrupts and damages human nature. … And humanity cannot get out of this situation alone, cannot redeem itself. Only the creator can restore the correct relationships. … This takes place in Jesus Christ follows the exact opposite path of Adam. … While Adam does not recognize his being as a creature and wants to supplant the place of God, Jesus, the Son of God is in perfect filial relation to the Father. He lowers himself, becomes a servant, walks the path of love, humbling himself even to death on the cross in order to restore the relationship with God. Christ’s Cross becomes the new Tree of Life.”
“Living by faith,” Benedict XVI concluded, “means acknowledging God’s greatness and accepting our smallness, our creatureliness, letting God fill us with His love. Evil, with its burden of pain and suffering, is a mystery that is illuminated by the light of faith, giving us the certainty of being able to be freed from it.”