VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI examined salvation history as the story of man’s relationship with and thirst for God at his general audience this week at the Vatican.
“The desire to truly know God, that is, to see the face of God, is inherent in every human being,” he said Jan. 16 in Paul VI Hall.
“Perhaps we also, unconsciously, have this desire to simply see who he is, what he is, who he is for us. But this desire is fulfilled in following Christ, so ... we finally see God as a friend, his face (is) the face of Christ.”
Pope Benedict began his audience by referring to Christ as “the mediator and the fullness of all revelation.” Salvation history begins after the fall of Adam because God “offers the possibility of his friendship.”
This friendship with God was offered especially through Abraham and then the people of Israel, who were chosen “not with criteria of earthly power, but simply for love’s sake.”
This election of Israel by God “remains a mystery,” but his election is always for the sake of the other, said the Pope.
The process by which God revealed himself was gradual and involved mediators, including Moses and the prophets, who kept alive “the hope of the full and definitive realization of the Divine promises.”
“It is the realization of these promises that we have contemplated in Christmas,” continued Pope Benedict. “God’s revelation reaches its peak, its fullness. ... God himself became man.”
In John’s Gospel, the Holy Father recounted, Philip asked that Christ show the Father to the apostles.
Christ’s response, “Whoever has seen me, has seen the Father,” Pope Benedict said, “leads us into the heart of Christological faith.”
“In this expression is summarized the novelty of the New Testament, the novelty that appeared in the cave of Bethlehem: God can be seen; God has manifested his face and is visible in Jesus Christ.”
The Pope noted that “seeking the face of God” is a theme throughout the Old Testament — some 100 times it speaks about the face of God. The Old Testament recounts the desire for God as a “you,” a person with whom we can enter into relationship.
“God is certainly above all things, yet he turns to us, listens to us, sees, speaks, extends covenants and is capable of loving,” said Pope Benedict. But this relationship is never completed in the Old Testament.
“Something completely new occurs, however, with the Incarnation,” he said. “The search for the face of God is unimaginably changed because this face can now be seen. It is that of Jesus, of the Son of God who is made man.”
“He is the fullness of this revelation because he is the Son of God as well as ‘the mediator and the fullness of all revelation.’ ... Jesus, true God and true man, is not simply one of the mediators between God and humankind, but is ‘the mediator’ of the new and eternal covenant,” the Pope reflected.
Christ’s humanity is essential to our relationship with God because “in him we see and encounter the Father ... and are given salvation.”
“Our entire existence must be directed toward meeting Jesus Christ, toward love for him. In such an existence, love for our neighbor must take a central position; that love that, in light of the crucifix, allows us to recognize the face of Jesus in the poor, the weak and in those who are suffering,” Pope Benedict exhorted his audience.
We can do this, he concluded, primarily through “the mystery of the Eucharist.”
“The Eucharist is the great school in which we learn to see the face of God, to enter into an intimate relationship with him.”