VATICAN CITY — In his weekly general audience, Pope Benedict pointed to the legacy of Abraham as an example of the Christian’s longing for the “true homeland” of heaven and as the “first great role model” of having faith in God.
“Abraham, the believer, teaches us faith and, like a stranger on earth, points out our true homeland. Faith makes us pilgrims on earth, situated in the world and in history, but on the path toward our heavenly homeland,” the Pope said Jan. 23 at the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall.
“Believing in God thus makes us heralds of values that often do not coincide with fashion or the opinion of the moment. The Christian should not be afraid to go ‘against the grain’ to live the faiith, resisting the temptation to ‘conform.’”
Pope Benedict discussed Abraham in the context of the Year of Faith and the opening line of the Creed, “I believe in God.” The Creed, he said, is “deceptively simple,” yet “opens us to the infinite world of a relationship with the Lord and with his mystery.”
Faith, the Holy Father told his listeners, is both a gift from God and a human responsibility, an “experience of dialogue with God.”
Abraham, who is our model for faith, obeyed God and went to a place unknown to him, Scripture says.
The invitation of faith “is, in fact, a departure in the dark, not knowing where God will lead; it is a journey that calls for obedience and a radical fidelity, which only faith can access,” the Pope noted.
“But the darkness of the unknown — where Abraham must go — is illuminated by the light of a promise; God adds a reassuring word that opens to Abraham a future of life in its fullness.”
Pope Benedict said Abraham’s life of faith made him “see everything as a gift,” always feeling his dependence upon God. This is the spiritual condition of all those “who agree to follow the Lord,” he said.
“Faith,” continued the Pope, “leads Abraham along a paradoxical path.” The blessings promised him were not visible to him, yet he was blessed because, “with faith, he is able to discern the Divine blessing, going beyond appearance, trusting in God’s presence even when his paths seem mysterious."
For us, “when we profess ‘I believe in God’, we are saying, like Abraham, ‘I trust in you. I entrust myself to you, Lord,’” Pope Benedict said. “Saying ‘I believe in God’ means basing my life on him, letting his word orient me in my choices each day, without the fear of losing something of myself.”
Challenges to Faith
In our time, the Pope said, there are many challenges to Christians seeking to live their life by faith.
“In many societies, God has become the ‘great absentee’; and many idols have taken his place, above all the desire for possessions and the autonomous ‘I.’”
“Also, the significant and positive progress in science and technology has given humanity the illusion of omnipotence and self-sufficiency, and a growing selfishness has created many imbalances in personal relationships and in social behavior.”
Despite these challenges, he said, “the thirst for God is not quenched, and the Gospel message continues to resonate through the words and deeds of many men and women of faith.”
Even today, he said, Abraham is the father of those who are “willing to walk in his footsteps and who make their way in obedience to the Divine call. ... It is the blessed world of faith to which we are all called, to walk without fear following the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Pope Benedict concluded, “Affirming that ‘I believe in God,’ then, compels us to leave, to continuously go out of ourselves just as Abraham did, in order to bring the certainty that comes to us from faith into our daily realities: the certainty of God’s presence in history, even today; a presence that brings life and salvation and which opens us to a future with him of a fullness of life that will know no end.”