This morning, Benedict XVI travelled from the major seminary of St. Wolfgang in Regensburg to the city's Islinger Field where he presided at the celebration of Mass. In his homily, he expressed his gratitude for all the efforts being made to ensure his visit was successful, confessing himself "a bit taken aback by all this goodness," and "moved" when he heard how many people had helped to renovate the house and garden he used to share with his brother and sister prior to his episcopal ordination.
"We are gathered for a celebration of faith," said the Pope. "But the question immediately arises: What do we actually believe? What does it mean to have faith? ... True enough: faith's vision embraces heaven and earth; past, present and future; eternity - and so it can never be fully exhausted. And yet, deep down, it is quite simple. The Lord tells us so when he says to the Father: 'You have revealed these things to the simple'."
"The Church, for her part," he continued, "has given us a little 'Summa' in which everything essential is expressed. It is the so-called 'Apostles' Creed", which ... speaks of God, the creator and source of all that is, of Christ and His work of salvation, and it culminates in the resurrection of the dead and life everlasting."
"Faith is simple. We believe in God. ... We believe in a God Who enters into a relationship with us human beings, who is our origin and future. Consequently, faith is, always and inseparably, hope: the certainty that we have a future and will not end up as nothing. And faith is love, since God's love is 'contagious.' ... The Creed is not a collection of propositions; it is not a theory. ... Truly, those who believe are never alone. God comes to meet us."
"We believe in God. This is a fundamental decision on our part," said the Holy Father, recalling how "from the Enlightenment on, science, at least in part, has applied itself to seeking an explanation of the world in which God would be unnecessary." If this were so, he added, "He would also become unnecessary in our lives. But whenever the attempt seemed to be nearing success, inevitably it would become clear that something was missing from the equation!"
"What came first?" the Holy Father asked, "Creative Reason, the Spirit who makes all things and gives them growth, or Unreason, which, lacking any meaning, somehow brings forth a mathematically ordered cosmos, as well as man and his reason? ... As Christians, we ... believe that at the beginning of everything is the eternal Word, with Reason and not Unreason. With this faith we have no reason to hide, no fear of ending up in a dead end."
"We believe in God," he continued, "the God Who is Creator Spirit, creative Reason, the source of everything that exists, including ourselves. The second section of the Creed tells us more. This creative Reason is Goodness, it is Love. It has a face. ... He has shown himself to us as a man. ... Today, when we have learned to recognize the pathologies and the life-threatening diseases associated with religion and reason, and the ways that God's image can be destroyed by hatred and fanaticism, it is important to state clearly the God in Whom we believe, and to proclaim confidently that this God has a human face. Only this can free us from being afraid of God - which is ultimately at the root of modern atheism. Only this God saves us from being afraid of the world and from anxiety before the emptiness of life."
"The second section of the Creed ends by speaking of the last judgement. ... Judgement - doesn't this word also make us afraid? On the other hand, doesn't everyone want to see justice eventually rendered to all those who were unjustly condemned, to all those who suffered in life, who died after lives full of pain? Don't we want the outrageous injustice and suffering which we see in human history to be finally undone, so that in the end everyone will find happiness, and everything will be shown to have meaning?
"This triumph of justice, this joining together of the many fragments of history which seem meaningless and giving them their place in a bigger picture in which truth and love prevail: this is what is meant by the concept of universal judgement.
"Faith is not meant to instill fear; rather it is meant ... to call us to accountability," the Holy Father concluded. "We are not meant to waste our lives, misuse them, or spend them selfishly. In the face of injustice we must not remain indifferent and thus end up as silent collaborators or outright accomplices. We need to recognize our mission in history and to strive to carry it out."
"But when responsibility and concern tend to bring on fear, then we should remember the words of Saint John: ... 'No matter what our hearts may charge us with - God is greater than our hearts and all is known to Him."