09/06/2006, 00.00
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Pope: meeting Jesus in person is our life's goal

At the general audience Benedict XVI talked once again about seeking the face of God. He asked the faithful to pray for his trip to Baviera, that the German people may encounter "a renewed spring of faith and civil progress".

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Meeting Jesus and striving to see in him the face of God himself, the heavenly father, should be our life's goal. At today's general audience, Benedict XVI talked about the "face of God", the same topic of his reflections during a pilgrimage on 1 September to the shrine of the Holy Face in Manopello. The audience took place on the eve of Pope Ratzinger's "return to his motherland": on Saturday, he leaves for Bavaria, where he will stay until next Thursday. It is a visit for which the pope called for the prayers of the faithful at the end of today's meeting, as he entrusted his trip to Mary. "May she guide my steps; may she obtain for the German people a renewed spring of faith and civil progress."

More than 25,000 people gathered in St Peter's Square to listen to the pope on what turned out to be a hot day at the close of summer: multi-coloured hats and kerchiefs were in evidence everywhere to shield people from the sun. Benedict XVI himself, who came by helicopter from Castel Gandolfo, wore a red hat with a wide rim. This headgear had not been in use for some time, like the camauro that appeared this winter.

The concept that "with the incarnation, God gave himself a human face, and if we want to know God's face, we must look at Jesus", was illustrated by the theologian-pope, who drew a picture of another of the apostles: Philip.

Benedict XVI started out from the gospel episode in which Philip exhorted the hesitant Nathaniel to get to know Jesus, telling him: "'Come and see!' (Jn 1:46). In this reply, dry but clear, Philip shows the marks of a true witness: he is not content with making his announcement, rather he appeals directly to the interlocutor, suggesting that he himself undergoes the personal experience announced." The pope continued: "We could imagine it is to us that Philip is addressing these two verbs, which presuppose a personal involvement. The apostle urges us to get to know Jesus close at hand. In effect, friendship requires closeness; in fact, it partly lives from this. Besides, we must not forget that, according to what Mark wrote, Jesus chose the Twelve with the primary scope that they should 'be with him'; (Mk 3:14), that is, they should share his life and learn directly from him, not only his way of behaving but above all, who he was. Later, the Letter of Paul to the Ephesians would say that the important thing is to 'learn Christ' (4:20), that is, not only and not so much to listen to his teachings as much as to recognize him in person, his humanity and divinity, his mystery and his beauty. He is in fact not only a Teacher, but a Friend, no, a Brother. How could we get to know him deeply while keeping a distance? Intimacy, familiarity, habit lead us to discover the true identity of Jesus Christ. There: this is exactly what the apostle Philip is reminding us of."

Benedict XVI then recalled the reply that Jesus gave to Philip when, during the Last Supper, he had asked him to show them the Father. 'Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, "Show us the Father"? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? ... Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me' (Jn 14:9-11). Jesus refers to himself thus, implying that it is possible to understand him not only through what he says, but even more simply through who he is. To express ourselves through the paradox of the Incarnation, we could well say that God gave himself a human face, that of Jesus, and consequently, from that moment on, if we really want to know the face of God, we need to do nothing else other than contemplate the face of Jesus!"

"Let us conclude our reflection by calling to mind the aim towards which our life should incline: meeting Jesus as Philip did, seeking to see in him the heavenly Father. Should this commitment be lacking, we will always be sent back to ourselves, as if we are looking in a mirror, and we will be ever more alone! Philip, on the other hand, teaches us to let ourselves to be conquered by Jesus, to stay with him, and to invite others too to share his indispensable company."

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