Man needs God even without realizing it

VATICAN CITY – Though modern society sometimes chooses to exclude God from its decisions, man still longs for him, and priests have the mission to spread his hope in the world, says Benedict XVI.

The Pope affirmed this on Saturday when he was visited by communities of the Pontifical Seminaries of Las Marcas, Puglia and Abruzzo-Molise.

“[A]mong the priority tasks of the priest is that of spreading with full hands the Word of God in the world, which, like the seed in the Gospel parable, seems too small a reality, but once it has germinated, it becomes a great bush and bears abundant fruit,” the Holy Father said. “The Word of God that you will be called upon to spread with full hands and which brings with it eternal life, is Christ himself, the only one who can change the human heart and renew the world.”

Yet, the Pontiff asked, is Christ’s message and his salvation still something that modern man needs?

Benedict XVI acknowledged that there is a certain culture that reveals “the face of a self-sufficient humanity, anxious to carry out its projects on its own, which chooses to be the sole architect of its destiny and which, consequently, believes that the presence of God does not count and so excludes it from its choices and decisions.”

He said the climate is marked by rationalism, “shut-in on itself, which considers the practical sciences as the only model of knowledge, while the rest is subjective.”

Thus, it is “increasingly more difficult to believe, more difficult to accept the truth that is Christ, more difficult to spend one’s life for the cause of the Gospel,” the Pope suggested.

Nevertheless, Benedict XVI affirmed, “modern man often seems to be disoriented and worried about his future, seeking certainties and sure points of reference. As in all ages, man of the third millennium needs God and seeks him perhaps without realizing it. The duty of Christians, especially of priests, is to respond to this profound yearning of the human heart and to offer all, with the means and ways that best respond to the demands of the times, the immutable and always living Word of eternal life that is Christ, hope of the world.”

Given such a task, the Holy Father encouraged the seminarians to value their years of seminary formation, especially “the constant search for a personal relationship with Jesus, a profound experience of his love, which is acquired above all through prayer and contact with the sacred Scriptures, interpreted and meditated in the faith of the ecclesial community.”

He suggested that in this Pauline Jubilee Year, St. Paul is a particularly adequate model for the young men preparing for their vocation.

“The extraordinary experience on the road to Damascus transformed him, from persecutor of Christians to witness of the resurrection of the Lord, willing to give his life for the Gospel. […] Conversion did not eliminate all that was good and true in his life, but enabled him to interpret in a new way the wisdom and truth of the Law and the prophets and thus be able to dialogue with all, following the example of the divine Teacher,” the Pontiff said.

“In imitation of St. Paul,” he encouraged, “do not tire of encountering Christ in listening to, reading and studying sacred Scripture, in prayer and personal meditation, in the liturgy and in every daily activity.”

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