Sunday, April 22, 2007

Conversion is a lifelong journey

AP Photo/Andrew Medichini

~from Asia News

Pavia (AsiaNews) – Conversion is a life long journey: from Pavia, custodian city of the Saint Augustine’s remains and where the Pope is currently on a pastoral visit, Benedict XVI reflects on the saint’s life journey as the ideal itinerary for every Christian. After arriving yesterday in nearby Vigevano, the papal visit to Pavia began this morning in “San Matteo” general hospital. Speaking to doctors, patients and relatives gathered in the hospital courtyard the Pope said “The hospital is a place which could be described as scared, where the fragility of human nature is witnessed on a daily basis, but along with those weaknesses the enormous potential of human genius and scientific technology at the service of human life are also seen. Human life! This great gift, no matter how much we explore and experiment, remains a mystery”. “It is my true hope – he added - that the necessary scientific and technological progress is constantly accompanied by the consciousness to also promote those fundamental values like the respect of human life in each of its phases, on which authentic human coexistence depends.” “The Church has always shown particular care for and solidarity with those who suffer – he concluded - by following Our Lord’s example, we will not cease to give the ill the help they need, aware that we are called to show Christ’s love and solace towards the sick and their carers”.

On leaving the Hospital, Benedict XVI made his way by car to the gardens of the Almo Collegio Borromeo where he celebrated mass before a crowd of about 20 thousand people, who had been gathering since early morning.

Benedict XVI’s homily on conversion followed Peter’s words to the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem and the experiences of Augustine.

Peter’s speech on the Risen Christ indicates that “he leads us to conversion- he creates the space and possibility to make amends, to repent and begin again. And He gifts us the forgiveness of sins – he introduces us to the right relationship with God”. “Peter’s brief catechesis – continued the pope – was not just for the benefit of the Sanhedrin. It speaks still to all of us. Because the Risen Christ lives today, too. And for all generations and all men. He is the “guide” who precedes us on our journey and the “saviour” who renders our life just. The two words ‘conversion’ and ‘forgiveness of sins’, which correspond to Christ’s two titles as ‘guide’ and ‘saviour’, are the key words of Peter’s catechesis, and words which even at this very moment want to penetrate our hearts. The journey which we must undertake – the journey which Jesus indicates to us, is called ‘conversion’. But what is it? What must we do? In every life conversion finds its own form, because every man is something new and no-one person is merely the photo copy of another. But in the course of Christianity the Lord sent us models of conversion, to which we can look for guidance”.

Benedict XVI’s examples encompassed Sts Peter and Paul to Saint Augustine. For the latter, “it can be seen quite clearly that his conversion was nota n event of one moment in time, but a journey”.

“What was the most essential aspect of this journey? Augustine on one hand was a product of his times, profoundly conditioned by the dominant habits and passions of his era, as well as all of the questions and problems pertaining to his young age. He lived exactly like the rest of the men of his time, and yet there was something special in him: he remained a person in continual search. He never contented himself with life as it was presented to him and as other lived it. He was forever tormented by the question of the truth”.

“He wanted to find the truth. He wanted to succeed in finding out what man is; where the world comes from; where we come from, where we are going to and how we can find out the truth. He wanted to find the road to truth and not just live blindly, without aim or objective. His passion for the truth is the key to reading his life. And there is yet another peculiarity regarding the saint. All that did not bear the name of Christ was of no use to him”.

“He –said the Pope – tells us that, through Platonic Philosophy, he had learned that ‘in the beginning there was the Word’ - Logos, creative reason. But philosophy did not show him how to reach it; this Logos was intangible and distant. Only in the faith of the Church did he find the second essential truth: the Word became flesh. And thus it touches us and we touch it. The humility of God’s incarnation must correspond to the humility of our faith, which does away with high-toned superbia and bows low as it enters to become part of the community of Christ’s body; which lives with the Church. Only in this way, can the faithful enter into concrete communion, bodily communion with the living God. It is unnecessary to point out how much all of this regards us today: be eternal searchers for the truth, do not content yourself with what others do or say. Do not be distracted from the eternal God and Jesus Christ. Renew the humility of your faith in the bodily Church of Jesus Christ”.

“Augustine reached yet another level of humility – the pope said - not only the humility of entrusting his great thought to the faith of the Church, not only the humility of translating his great knowledge into the simplicity of the Good News, but also the humility to recognise that the merciful goodness of God who forgives was continually necessary for him and for the entire pilgrim Church; and we – he added – become similar to Christ, the Perfect one, in the greatest possible way when we become merciful people like Him. I now give God thanks – he concluded – for the great light that irradiates from the knowledge and humility of Saint Augustine, let u spray that he gifts us all, each day the necessary conversion that leads us towards the one true life”.

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