Pope Benedict XVI presides over an evening prayer service with university students in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican on December 15, 2011. (CNS photo)
“We do not
need a generic, indefinite god but rather the living, true God who unfolds the
horizon of men’s future into a prospect of firm, well-founded hope, a home rich
in eternity that enables us to face the present courageously in all its
Pope Benedict XVI
, To University Students of Rome. (December 15,
2011, L’Osservatore Romano,
December 21, 2011.)
before Christmas every year, the Holy Father has a meeting with local
university students in Rome. This year’s talk was centered about a passage in
James (5:7) about patience. Essentially, patience is on the side of letting
things happen in their own due time. We often wonder why God does not do things
in a more tidy and speedy fashion. We set up our standard and wonder why God
does not conform to it.
many people in our time, especially among those you meet in university lecture
halls, who voice the question of whether we should await something or someone,
whether we should await another messiah, another god…” The implication is that
the Messiah we have been given has not come through for us. We must look about,
perhaps make our own redeemer. It is quite interesting to read that these
impatient folks populate university lecture halls. We might speculate: why?
knows that university professors (and sometimes politicians) are constantly
tempted to invent their own world in order to explain their private theory
about how things should be. This Christian idea of receiving a revelation and
waiting for the plan of God to unravel is much too inefficient. There has to be
a speedier way. The trouble with such theories is that, once they are in
effect, we end up gazing into the face of the professor and not into the Face
created ultimately to behold God “face to face.” But salvation comes to us in
God’s way and time, not ours. The meaning “in the depth of life and history” is
that seeing the face of the Lord requires “patience, fidelity and constancy in
seeking God and openness to him that he reveals his Face.” It is a subtle
temptation, to compare what God does to what we think, if we were He, He ought
individual question becomes: “Where can my search find the true Face of tis
God?” The more basic question is: “Where does God himself come to meet me,
showing me his Face, revealing its mystery to me…?” Looked at from this angle,
we do not demand that God follow our terms. How we are to meet Him has been
explained to us. We do not set the terms. Thus, we have room for patience, a
patience that does not presume to set our parameters to God’s action.
If we look
at our tradition, we realize that within it, “the certainty of the world’s
great hope is given to us that we are not alone
and we do not build
history by ourselves
We need to trust that God is present in history. We are not calling all the
shots. We cannot put our hope on
what is immediate.
all their hope “in immediate, in a purely horizontal perspective or in projects
that are technically perfect but far from the most profound reality, the one
that gives the human person the loftiest dignity, the transcendent dimension,
that of being a creature in the image and likeness of God and of carrying in
our heart the desire to rise him.”
returns to the reality of the Incarnation. When we speak of God, we often have
to use analogies or similitudes. The case of Christ is different. He was among
us, at a given time and place. People saw Him, wrote about Him, and remembered
Him. He was not a fantasy or an ideal form. “God, in the Incarnation of the
Word, in the incarnation of his Son, experienced the time of human beings,
their growth, their action in history.” We often underestimate the significance
of this fact. The Son of Man, the Son of God, actually lived in time, at a
definite, known period of time.
If God the
Father, who created the world in the Word, sent this Son into the world, that
fact is the most significant thing that has ever happened in the history of man
in this cosmos. It not only says that the world is God’s creation and worth
God’s immediate attention, it also recounts that this same Word was, in His
manhood, crucified by men. We can speak of God’s patience from that point. The
patience of God awaits the human actions that acknowledge sins and recognizes
their relation to this Crucifixion of the Son of god.
persevering and patient means learning to build history together with God,
because it is only by building on him and with him that the construction is firmly
founded, not exploited for ideological ends, but truly worthy of the human
being.” How to “construct” worlds “worthy” of human beings? The answer is that
we first have to remember how it is that we began and for what we are intended.
We do not call ourselves into existence. We do not redeem ourselves.
existence is no longer left to the impersonal forces of natural and historical
processes; our house can be built on the rock; we can plan our history, the
history of humanity, not in Utopia but in the certainty that the God of Jesus
Christ is present and goes with us.” Again we have here the contrast of the
Utopias of the professors and the patience of God, the way of God.
finally “invites” the students to seek the real “Face of God.” “Seeking the
Face of God is the profound aspiration of our heart and is also the answer to
the fundamental question that continues to surface ever anew in contemporary
society.” God is close to everyone; no one is excluded who does not choose to
ends with a brief prayer: “Your Face, Lord, do I seek. Come, do not delay.” We
have here both a patience and an awareness of what it is that we seek.
reject the Face of God seen in Christ to replace it with our own constructions.
Many insist that this taking charge is what we should be doing. They have given
God time to correct things. He has failed. Or so they tell us. They give us
another “face” to see. It is not the Face of God. It is but our own face to
gaze on forever. It is an omen of despair that we are offered. Many will choose
themselves. But it is the Face of God that they seek. Their lack of patience
deceives them. They end up with the couple in Genesis who wanted themselves to
have the power to define good and evil rather than discover it in the Face of
God who walked in the Garden.