“Is there a man who desires life and longs for happy days”?
This line, from Psalm 33, was the theme of the just-concluded annual Meeting for Friendship among Peoples sponsored by Communion and Liberation and held in Rimini, Italy. The following is the message of John Paul II to the participants in the Meeting, as can be found at the CL website here.
H.E. Mgr Mariano De Nicolò Bishop of Rimini
The Holy Father wishes, this year as well, to extend his cordial greetings to you, the organizers and all the participants in the Meeting for Friendship among Peoples. The theme chosen for the 2003 edition is a line from Psalm 33: "Is there a man who desires life and longs for happy days"? This is a question that induces reflection.
Man spends long stretches of his existence almost insensible to the call of true happiness, a call that nonetheless is harbored in his consciousness. He is "distracted," as it were, by his manifold relationships with reality, and his interior ear seems no longer to know how to react. Isaiah's words come to mind: "There is no one who calls on your name, or attempts to take hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us, and have delivered us into the hand of our iniquity" (Isaiah 64:7).
The prophet highlights the root of the unrest aroused by the Psalm's question, and goes on to say, "I was ready to be sought out by those who did not ask, to be found by those who did not seek me. I said, 'Here I am, here I am,' to a nation that did not call on my name" (65:1). This word from Isaiah is perhaps the best counterpoint to the Meeting's theme: God appears and shakes man who is turned in on himself, dazed by his own iniquity; he makes himself known, trying repeatedly to attract man's attention. God's insistence, lovingly manifested to a son whose life is drifting astray, is a stirring mystery of mercy and gratuitousness.
The world that mankind has built, especially in the centuries closest to us, often tends to obscure the person's natural desire for happiness, increasing the "distraction" into which people risk falling because of their intrinsic weakness. Today's society gives priority to a type of desire that can be controlled according to psychological and sociological laws and thus utilized often for purposes of profit or management of consent.
A plurality of desires has replaced the longing that God placed in human beings as a spur, so that they would seek him and find complete fulfillment and peace only in him. Partial desires, oriented by powerful means capable of influencing consciences, become centrifugal forces that push the person farther and farther away from himself, rendering him dissatisfied and sometimes even violent.
The 2003 Meeting in Rimini proposes once again a perennially current theme: The human creature, animated by this desire for infinite fulfillment, can never be reduced to a means for achieving any interest, no matter what it may be. The footprint of the divine, which takes shape in him as a longing for happiness, makes him by his very nature incapable of being exploited.
The unease felt at being asked the question in Psalm 33 is thus born of the fact that man often cannot find the strength to say: "I do! I am the man who desires life and longs for happy days." The Meeting's theme recalls the need for a reawakening on man's part. He has to find again the energy and courage to stand in front of God and respond to the Lord's "Here I am, here I am," by saying -- albeit in a feeble voice, an echo of that same call -- "Here I am, I'm here too. I call to you, now that you have found me."
This answer to the God who cries out to the point of overcoming our deafness describes the deeply moved coming to awareness which a person reaches in the most intimate center of his being. This happens right in the moment when God's call manages to break through the clouds shrouding the consciousness. Only this response: "Here I am," restores to man his true face and represents the beginning of his redemption.
But the person has to be sustained by an adequate education that tends, as its ultimate aim, to foster the reawakening of his awareness of his own purpose, arousing in his heart the energies necessary for achieving it. Education, therefore, is never addressed to the mass of people, but to the individual person in his unique and unrepeatable physiognomy. This presupposes a sincere love for man's freedom and an untiring commitment to its defense.
With this year's theme, too, the Meeting reminds the peoples of Europe, who seem to be staggering under the weight of their history, where their roots are sunk. By raising again the question asked by the psalm, the Meeting forcefully evokes the great figure of St. Benedict in the act of welcoming the novice who asks to enter the monastery (cf. the Rule, prologue 15).
St. Benedict's Rule has represented not only a path to Christian perfection, but also an unparalleled instrument of civilization, unity and freedom. During centuries often marked by confusion and violence, it has enabled the construction of bulwarks that have allowed men and women of different times to be led back to a full realization of their dignity. The future can be built by starting afresh from Europe's origins and by treasuring the experiences of the past, a large part of which bear the mark of the encounter with Christ.
His Holiness, expressing his wish that the Meeting may be an occasion of true cultural and spiritual growth, assures you of his prayers and sends a heartfelt special Apostolic Blessing to the participants in the various events on the program. I too express my own hopes for the unqualified success of your noble initiative, and gladly confirm to you my deepest regards.
Yours devotedly in the Lord,
Cardinal Angelo Sodano
Secretary of State