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World Youth Day
First catechesis: "Steady on faith"
Madrid, August 17th 2011
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When Mary was welcomed in her cousinís house, she was praised by Elizabeth mainly for her faith: "May be blessed the woman who believed in fulfilling Godís words" [Lc 1,45].

During this first catechesis weíll think about faith, thatís the source of our true bliss. So I wonít talk about any truth except the one we confess in the Creed, but Iíll try to answer this following question: what does believing mean? I tell you the answer immediately, so that then explaining each of its element, you can better follow. And the answer is: faith is the response of the human person to God who reveals Himself and His plan of salvation, at the same time giving the man, who is looking for the last sense of his life, a over plentiful light.

In this description of faith two subjects come into play: the man and God. About God they say "He reveals Himself and His plan of salvation." About the man they say that, by believing, he answers this revelation, that is he accepts it, staying so enlightened during his sense of life seeking.

Now Iíll try to reflect briefly on each of the two actors that make up the drama of faith. I start from the man.

1. The man seeking the sense of life

We have a lot of needs and questions. If we go deeper, we become aware not only that each of us has his own needs, asks questions, but heís a need, a question himself.

The Samaritan needs to go to draw water every day, since, like we each, she lives into this kind of dialectic: thirst - water- thirst. Jesus, on the contrary, makes her realize sheís thirst herself.

Many people want to elect Jesus as their king, says Johnís Gospel [cf. ch. 6], because He satisfied their hunger, but they donít realize that they need not only bread, but they are need of nourishment themselves. Peter realizes it: "Only you have words of eternal life," he says to Jesus, and he binds himself to Him forever.

Dear friends, what does "each of us is a need, is a question" mean? I help you in replying with the help of one of our great friends: S. Augustine.

He, like surely everyone of you, was friendships starved. At one point death snatches his dearest friend. He is shocked: why death takes away even the most expensive? Then it is stronger than love? But if so, why we keep desiring a love - in a word: a life - stronger? And Augustine concludes: "I became to myself a question" [factus sum mihimet ipsi quaestio].

Augustine experienced what each of us experiences in the most tragic and beautiful moments of his life: life is bigger than our own daily living, because it carries within it the need of reasons why itís worth living. Everyday life is made ​​up of pain, the pain of the his friendís death, but in this living Augustine feels, or at least he desires and suspects, the reasons why itís worth living, despite all.

What are these reasons? Who/what answers my desire for living a life thatís really worth living?

The need is a lack with a question inside [the Samaritan woman lacks "water to extinguish her thirst" and she wants and asks for this water]. But when we become aware of our condition, we assume that we donít need anyone to find out the answer to our need or we convince ourselves that there wonít be any answer to the question that everybody is.

Dear friends, the greatest chance weíre taking now itís making sleepy, or censoring, or even inhibiting this immense question that forms us, this big desire to "go outdoors to live on the possibilities being human fully".

If not immunized against this risk, we will live according to our instincts, even if in the picture of legality. But today instinct and law are the main tools of the ruling power.

Dear friends, when we talk about faith, we suppose thereís a man and we turn to a man who isnít content simply with living, but who truly looks for the final meaning of life and its taste.

2. God reveals himself and his project

Iíd like to start a Platoís page.

"In fact, as it comes to these topics, itís not possible doing anything but one of these things: learning by the others how things are, or finding it out by ourselves; or, if thatís impossible, accepting, among the human reasonings, the best one and the less easy to refute, and basing upon it like being on a raft, facing the risk of crossing the sea of ​​life: unless you can make the journey more safely and with less risk on a more solid ship, that is, trusting a divine revelation. "

As you can see, the man looking for an answer becomes aware that he essentially needs an event happens in his life: that God himself comes to him.

After all, this is the same view that Cesare Pavese expressed while writing: "Did anybody promise to us something? So, why are we waiting for it?".

How does the meeting between two persons happen? The basic tool, the way of the meeting is the word spoken by the first one and the response of the second one. Through the word their feelings, their thoughts, their desires, their projects are revealed. In a word: themselves. We can say: the meeting is a linguistic event. But not only and not mainly.

The meeting is also and above all a story made up of events, of life shared in a mutual belonging. Think, for example, about the meeting between a man and a woman thatís sealed by the marriage agreement. The meeting is a story.

So, these are the two elements that make up a meeting between two people: words and happenings. The meeting is always a speech and an historic event.

Hear now the following text: Cost. Dogm. Dei Verbum 2 [EV 1/873].

"This economy of revelation is realized by happenings and words intimately linked each other, so that the works by God performed in the history of salvation show and confirm the teaching and the realities meant by the words and words proclaim the works and illuminate the mystery they contain ".

Who's the believer? Itís he who has met God, who "owing to the richness of his love speaks to him as a friend, stays with him and invites him in order to admit him to the communion with himself." He speaks to him and makes divine gestures of love. Faith comes from this event.

In the next section we will explain more specifically talking exactly about the act of faith. Now I want to draw attention on a central point.

Itís not difficult understanding that this fact (God in Christ speaks to the man and makes his gestures of love) must somehow happen today. It mustnít be only a memory of a past event, but actual presence of the same past event. Not only memory, but presence. Christ is our contemporary: only in this way there can be the answer to the need that is everyone of us. If I'm hungry, I donítí need to think about when Iíve eaten! I need to get food now.

Christís contemporaneity doesnít mean that everything starts all over again as if at a given time and space nothing happened. But in the sense that what happened once, remains forever and everyone of us can meet him at any time. How? Through the Church. Here's how the Holy Father explains this point in his letter to young people for the next World Youth Day in Madrid.

"Also to us itís possible having a significant contact with Jesus, putting, so to speak, our hand over the signs of his Passion, the signs of his love: in the sacraments, he becomes particularly very close to us, He gives himself to us. Dear young people, learn to "see", to "meet" Jesus in the Eucharist, where He is present and close to the point of becoming Himself food for our journey; in the Sacrament of Penance, in which the Lord shows His mercy always offering His forgiveness . Recognize and serve Jesus in the poor, the sick, the brothers who are in trouble and need help."

So you can see how faith, personal encounter with the Lord, deeply brings us into the Church of yesterday and today. My faith is the faith of the Church, that supports and protects my faith.

3. The answer of the man: faith.

The answer to the God revealing Himself and His plan of salvation is exactly faith; the rejection of the response is disbelief. We must finally see what it is, what is the answer.

I start from a human experience. When a guy tells a girl he loves her and wants to share his life with her and her to be the mother of his children, she has three possible answers.

The first one is thinking that that guy is not sincere, is not reliable and is deceiving her. The second one is simply rejecting the proposal. The third one is allowing it and then beginning a love story.

Let's try to briefly analyze the third answer. It implies an act of intelligence: "what you are saying to me is true, Youíre not deceiving me". She is certain of the truth of those words. But that's not all. Do you remember the second answer? She might be sure that guy is not deceiving her, but say: "I donít care ... you're not my kind." To start a true love story, it is necessary that the girl feels attracted to the boy, feels like a sort of emotional transport to him.

If you have followed me, it wonít be hard to you understanding what believing means.

God turns to each of us now [remember the contemporary] and says: "I love you, I want to live with you a love story, as I am Love" [remember what Revelation means]. The man truly believes that God is speaking to him, that when He declares his love, is not deceiving him: He tells him the truth. This is the first constituent of faith: faith is an act of reason believing with absolute certainty that God is telling the truth.

But faith does not comes down to this, to the assent of our reason. It also implies a deep interest in what God is saying, it implies a kind of internal attraction towards the inner word, best of all towards what God is saying, in the final towards God himself. Here is the second constituent of faith: faith is an act of our freedom that decides to place itself in the love relationship with the Lord.

When we say "believing in God" we underline the rational aspect of faith: when we say "believe in God" we stress the affective aspect of faith.

But that's not all. The most important dimension of faith is another one. Letís go back to the example.

The girl says "yes" because she feels attracted to that boy. Where does this attraction come from? Certainly from the qualities that she sees in the boy: his beauty, his intelligence ... In faith something great happens.

God wields an intimate attraction to the person; He shows him a ray of His beauty, He gives him a foretaste of the sweetness of His love. And the human being gives up and is seduced. Certainly, then, faith is an rational and free act of the person who believes. But even more than before and itís an act of God, which moves manís heart and turns it to Him, opens the eyes of the mind and let the man tasting the sweetness in allowing the word of God to enter his soul.

In short. Faith is a personal adherence of the entire man to God who reveals Himself and is made up of an adherence of intelligence and a movement of freedom.


I guess you will have many questions. Many are in fact the points to be clarified and deepened. Now in your parishes, movements and associations you should have to restart this reflection and complete it with your priests: follow the Catechism of the Catholic Church, from no. 27 to no. 184.

Just two concluding remarks. You wonít meet any difficulty in realizing that faith is the root and the foundation of all Christian life.

The second remark is a quote of St. Thomas: "Faith is a foretaste of the knowledge that will make us blessed in the upcoming life " [The Compendium of Theology, 3].

La traduzione, non rivista dal Card. Caffarra, Ť di Saveria De Vito