Evangelization Needs to Awaken a Longing for Love of God, Says John Paul II

Cautions That the World Distracts People From Seeking Real Happiness

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VATICAN CITY, AUG. 24, 2003 (Zenit.org).- The challenge of the new evangelization is to help people, distracted by sin and the world, rediscover a longing for the love of God, says John Paul II.



The Pope expressed this in a message sent to the "Meeting for Friendship Among Peoples," a weeklong event organized by the Communion and Liberation ecclesial movement.

The event, expected to attract 600,000 people, is offering 130 meetings, 29 performances, 17 exhibitions and 10 sports competitions in the Italian coastal city of Rimini. The event ends next Saturday. Among the speakers are figures from the world of politics, economics, culture and entertainment.

Ecclesiastical guests include Archbishop Coadjutor Diarmuid Martin of Dublin, Ireland; Archbishop Terrence Prendergast of Halifax, Nova Scotia; Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna, Austria; and Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani of Lima, Peru.

The Pope dedicates his letter, sent by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano, to comment on the central question of the meeting, taken from the Psalms: "Is there a man who longs for life and desires happy days?"

"Man spends long periods of his life almost insensitive to the call to authentic happiness, a call which, however, he keeps in his conscience; he is as though distracted by the multiple relations with reality and his inner ear seems no longer able to react," the Holy Father says in the letter.

"God makes himself present; addresses man turned in on himself, confused by his own iniquity; tries repeatedly to attract his attention. God's insistence, which is manifested with love to a child whose life is headed toward ruin, is an overwhelming mystery of mercy and generosity," the Pope writes.

"The world that humanity has built, particularly in the last centuries, tends often to overshadow in persons the natural desire for happiness, increasing the distraction in which they run the risk of falling due to their intrinsic weakness," he says. "Present-day society favors a kind of desire able to be controlled according to psychological and sociological laws and, therefore, able to be utilized often for the benefit or creation of consensus."

In this way, the Pope explains, "a multiplicity of desires has substituted the longing that God has placed in the person as a goad so that he will seek and find him in fulfillment and peace. Partial desires, oriented with powerful means capable of influencing consciences, become centrifugal forces, which lead the human being increasingly further away from himself and leave him dissatisfied and, at times, even violent."

"The human creature, animated by this desire for infinite fulfillment, can never be reduced to a simple means to attain any interest," he adds. "The divine trace, which takes the form of longing for happiness, by its very nature does not allow it to be instrumentalized."

"The uneasiness before the question of Psalm 33 comes, therefore, from the fact that man often does not find the strength to say: 'I! I am a man who wants life and desires happy days,'" the Holy Father writes.

According to John Paul II, the "theme of the meeting is a reminder of the need for rescue; one must recover the energy and courage to place himself before God to respond to the 'here I am' of the Lord, saying, even if in a weak voice, echo of that same call, 'Here I am, I am also here. I invoke you, now that you have found me again.'"

"This response to the God who cries out until he overcomes our deafness, describes a person's overwhelming realization, in his innermost self. It takes place precisely at the moment in which God's call succeeds in breaking the clouds that enveloped one's conscience. Only this response, 'Here I am,' restores to man his true face, and represents the beginning of his rescue," the Holy Father says.

To reach this objective, "the person must be supported by an adequate formation," the Pope concludes. "Education, therefore, is never directed to the masses, but to the individual person, in his unique and unrepeatable physiognomy. This presupposes a sincere love for man's freedom and a tireless commitment in his defense."

Communion and Liberation, the meeting's organizer, is a movement whose objective is the mature Christian education of its members and collaboration with the Church's mission in all realms of contemporary society. The movement is active in some 70 countries.