The Transforming
Power of Faith

By Pope Benedict XVI

Ignatius Press, 2013

112 pages, $14.95

To order: (800) 651-1531


As the Year of Faith draws to a close Nov. 24, Ignatius Press has provided us with a collection of Pope Benedict XVI’s 2012-2013 Wednesday general audience talks on the subject of faith.

The Holy Father dedicated his final weekly audiences to exploring the personal meaning of faith, and, although the Year of Faith may soon be over, his reflections retain a lasting value.

Benedict made clear that faith is, first and foremost, something personal, not just something propositional. Faith is about Someone, not just something:

"The fiftieth anniversary of . . . the Second Vatican Council is an important opportunity to return to God, to deepen our faith and live it more courageously, and to strengthen our belonging to the Church. It is through the Word, the sacraments and works of charity that the [Church] guides us to meeting and knowing Christ, true God and true man. This is an encounter, not with an idea or with a project of life, but with a living Person who transforms our innermost selves, revealing to us our true identity as children of God. Having faith in the Lord is not something that involves solely our intelligence; rather, it is a change that involves our life, our whole self: feelings, heart, intelligence, will, corporeity, emotions and human relationships. With faith everything truly changes, in us and for us, and our future destiny is clearly revealed."

Before his abdication, Benedict left us 16 audiences that explored various aspects of faith, each of which points to the personal, life-changing meaning of faith.

Consider what he says about the first words of the Creed, "I believe in God": "The ability to say one believes in God is both a gift — God reveals himself; he comes to meet us — and a commitment; it is divine grace and human responsibility in an experience of conversation with God, who, out of love, ‘addresses men as his friends.’"

Similarly rich meditations penetrate the other talks. In speaking of Jesus as "Mediator and Sum Total of Revelation," he does not start out with a doctrinal reflection on Jesus as the "Way, the Truth and the Life." Rather, he reflects on how man has always wanted to look at God’s face.

Ancient Israel forbade the making of graven images, yet the Old Testament is replete with a yearning to see God. "The desire to know God truly, to see God’s face, is innate in every man, even in atheists," observes Benedict.

God answers that desire in Jesus, both two millennia ago as well as today: "For us, the Eucharist is the great school in which we learn to see God’s face, and we learn to turn our gaze to the final moment of history, when he will satisfy us with the light of his face."

Because they originally extended over Advent and Christmastide last year, they are particularly appropriate to those approaching liturgical seasons.

Benedict warns us against letting the familiarity of the Christmas mystery immunize us against its meaning: "The event of God who became man, like us, shows us the daring realism of divine love. … God did not stop at words, but showed us how to live."

John M. Grondelski writes from Shanghai, China.