On Saint Paul (July 2, 2008 - Feb 4, 2009)
 


                   

Pope's "Lectio Divina" on Paul's Letter to Galatians
"Only a Shared Freedom Is Human Freedom"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 23, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the "lectio divina" Benedict XVI delivered Friday during a visit to Rome's Major Seminary on the eve of the feast of the seminary's patroness, Our Lady of Confidence. The "lectio divina" is a reflection on St. Paul's Letter to the Galatians.

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Lord Cardinal,
Dear Friends,

For me it is always a great joy to be in my seminary, to see the future priests of my diocese, to be with you under the sign of Our Lady of Confidence. We go forward with her, who helps and accompanies us, and who really gives us the certainty of always being helped by divine grace.

Let us now see what St. Paul says to us with this text: "You were called to freedom." At all times, freedom has been humanity's great dream, since the beginning, but particularly in modern times. We know that Luther was inspired by this text of the Letter to the Galatians, and his conclusion was that the monastic Rule, the hierarchy, the magisterium seemed a yoke of slavery from which he had to free himself. Subsequently, the age of the Enlightenment was totally guided, penetrated by this desire for freedom, which it was thought had already been attained. However, Marxism also presented itself as the path to freedom.

Tonight we ask: What is freedom? How can we be free? St. Paul helps us to understand the complicated reality which freedom is by inserting this concept in a context of fundamental anthropological and theological divisions. He says: "Do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love be servants of one another." The rector has already told us that "flesh" is not the body, but, in St. Paul's language, it is the absolutizing of the I, of the I that wants to be all and have everything for itself. In short, the absolute I, which does not depend on anything or anyone, seems really to possess freedom. I am free if I do not depend on anyone, if I can do everything I wish. However, precisely this absolutizing of the I is "flesh," namely, the degradation of man, it is not the victory of freedom: libertinism is not freedom, instead, it is the failure of freedom.

And Paul dares to propose a strong paradox: "Through charity, be of service " (in Greek "douleuete"); in other words, paradoxically, freedom is realized in service: We are free if we become one another's servants. And so Paul puts the whole problem of freedom in the light of the truth of man. To reduce oneself to the flesh, apparently raising oneself to the rank of divinity -- "I, man alone" -- introduces a lie. Because in fact, it is not like this: Man is not an absolute, being able to isolate himself and behave according to his own will. This goes against the truth of our being. Our truth is, above all, that we are creatures, creatures of God and we live in relationship with the Creator. We are rational beings, and only by accepting this relationship do we enter into truth, otherwise we fall into falsehood and, in the end, are destroyed by it.

We are creatures, hence dependents of the Creator. In the age of the Enlightenment, especially for atheism, this dependency seemed like something from which it was necessary to free oneself. In reality, however, it would be a fatal dependency only if this Creator God was a tyrant, not a good Being, only if he was as human tyrants are. If, however, this Creator loves us and our dependence implies being in the realm of his love, in this case, in fact, dependency is freedom. Thus, we are, indeed, in the love of the Creator, we are united to him, to the whole of his reality, to all his power. This, therefore, is the first point: To be a creature means to be loved by the Creator, to be in this relationship of love that he gives us, with which he provides for us. From this derives above all the truth about ourselves, which at the same time is a call to love.

And because of this to see God, to orient oneself to God, to know God, to know the will of God, to insert oneself in his will, that is, in the love of God is to enter increasingly into the realm of truth. And this path of knowledge of God, of the relationship of love with God, is the extraordinary adventure of our Christian life: Because in Christ we know the face of God, the face of God who loves us even to the cross, to the gift of himself.

However, the creaturely relationship also implies a second type of relationship: We are in relationship with God but, at the same time, as human family, we are also in relationship with one another. In other words, human freedom is, on one hand, to be in the joy and great realm of the love of God, but it also implies being only one thing with the other and for the other. There is no freedom in being against the other. If I absolutize myself, I become the other's enemy, we can no longer coexist on earth and the whole of life becomes cruelty and failure. Only a shared freedom is human freedom; in being together we can enter the symphony of freedom.

Hence, this is another point of great importance: Only by accepting the other, by accepting also the apparent limitation that respect for the other implies for my freedom, only by inserting myself in the network of dependencies that makes us, finally, only one human family, will I be on the way to common liberation.

A very important element appears here. What is the measure of this sharing of freedom? We see that man needs order and law, to be able to realize his freedom, which is a freedom lived in common. And how can we find this just order, in which no one is oppressed, but each one can make his own contribution to form this sort of concert of freedom? If there is no common truth of man as it appears in the vision of God, only positivism remains and one has the impression of something imposed even in a violent manner. Hence the rebellion against order and law as if it was a question of slavery.

However, if we can find the order of the Creator in our nature, the order of truth that gives each one his place, order and law can be in fact instruments of freedom against the slavery of egoism. To serve one another becomes an instrument of freedom, and here we can include a whole philosophy of politics according to the social doctrine of the Church, which helps us to find this common order that gives each one his place in the common life of humanity. The first reality that must be respected, therefore, is truth: Freedom against truth is not freedom. To serve one another creates the common realm of freedom.

And then Paul continues, saying: "For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'" After this affirmation the mystery of the Incarnate God appears, the mystery of Christ appears who in his life, Death and Resurrection becomes the living law.

Immediately, the first words of our reading -- "You were called to freedom" -- point to this mystery. We have been called by the Gospel, we have really been called in baptism, to participate in the death and resurrection of Christ, and in this way we have passed from the "flesh," from egoism, to communion with Christ. And so we are in the fullness of the law.

You probably all know St. Augustine's beautiful words: "Dilige et fac quod vis -- Love and do what you will." What Augustine says is the truth, if we have truly understood the word "love." "Love, and do what you will," but we must really be penetrated by communion with Christ, having identified ourselves with his death and resurrection, being united to him in the communion of his body. By participation in the sacraments, by listening to the Word of God, the Divine Will, the divine law really enters our will, our will identifies with his, they become only one will and thus we are really free, we can really do what we will, because we love with Christ, we love in truth and with truth.

Therefore, let us pray to the Lord that he will help us on this path that began with baptism, a path of identification with Christ that is always realized again in the Eucharist. In the third Eucharistic Prayer we say: "To be one body and one spirit in Christ." It is a moment in which, through the Eucharist and through our true participation in the mystery of the death and resurrection of Christ, we become one spirit with Him, we identify with his will, and thus we truly attain freedom.

After this word -- the law has been fulfilled -- after this unique word that becomes reality in communion with Christ, all the figures of the saints who have entered into this communion with Christ appear behind the Lord, in this unity of being, in this unity with his will. Above all, the Virgin appears, in her humility, her goodness, her love. The Virgin gives us this confidence, she takes us by the hand, guides us and helps us on the path of uniting ourselves with the will of God, as she was from the first moment, expressing this union in her "Fiat."

And, finally, after these beautiful things, the letter points out once more the rather sad situation of the community of the Galatians, when Paul says: "But if you bite and devour one another take heed that you are not consumed by one another ... walk by the Spirit." It seems to me that in this community -- which was no longer on the path of communion with Christ, but in the external law of the "flesh" -- naturally controversies also emerged and Paul says: "You become wild beasts, one bites the other." He refers thus to the controversies that arise when faith degenerates into intellectualism and humility is substituted by the arrogance of being better than the other.

We see clearly that also today there are similar things when, instead of being inserted in communion with Christ, in the Body of Christ which is the Church, each one wants to be better than the other and with intellectual arrogance wants to be regarded as the best. And thus controversies arise which are destructive, born is a caricature of the Church, which should be one soul and one heart.

In St. Paul's warning we should find today a reason to examine our conscience: not to think of being better than the other, but to meet one another in the humility of Christ, in the humility of the Virgin, to enter into the obedience of the faith. Precisely in this way the great realm of truth and freedom in love is really opened also for us.

Finally, we want to thank God because He has shown us his face in Christ, because he has given us the Virgin, the saints, because He has called us to be only one body, one spirit with him. And let us pray that He will help us to insert ourselves ever more in this communion with his will, so as to find love and joy in freedom.

[At the end of the dinner with the community of the Roman Seminary, the Holy Father said]

I am told that yet another word is expected from me. I have already spoken perhaps too much, but I would like to express my gratitude, my joy at being with you. In my conversation now at table I have learned something more about the history of the Lateran, begun by Constantine, Sixtus V, Benedict XIV, Pope Lambertini.

So I have seen all the problems of the history and ever-new rebirth of the Church in Rome. And I have understood that in the discontinuity of external historical events lies the great continuity of the unity of the Church at all times. And also in regard to the composition of the seminary, I have understood that it is an expression of the catholicity of our Church. From all the continents we are one Church and we have the future in common. Let us only hope that vocations will grow because, as the rector said, there is a need for laborers in the Lord's vineyard. Thank you all!

[Translation of Italian original by Inma Alvarez]

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On Paul's World and Time Period
"I Begin Today a New Cycle of Catecheses, Dedicated to the Great Apostle"

VATICAN CITY, JULY 2, 2008 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered during today's general audience in St. Peter's Square.

On the occasion of the Pauline Year, the Holy Father began a new cycle of catecheses today, dedicated to the figure and thought of St. Paul.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I would like to begin today a new cycle of catecheses, dedicated to the great Apostle St. Paul. To him, as you know, I have consecrated this year, which extends from the liturgical feast of Sts. Peter and Paul on June 29, 2008, to the same feast in 2009.

The Apostle Paul, an exceptional and virtually inimitable yet stimulating figure, is before us as an example of total dedication to the Lord and his Church, as well as of great openness to humanity and its cultures. It is just, therefore, that we reserve a particular place for him, not only in our veneration, but also in an effort to understand what he has to say to us, Christians of today, as well.

In this, our first meeting, I would like to pause to consider the environment in which he lived and worked. Such a topic would seem to take us far from our time, given that we must insert ourselves in the world of 2,000 years ago. And yet, this is only apparently and partly true, because it can be verified that in many ways, the socio-cultural environment of today is not so different than that of back then.

A primary and fundamental factor to keep in mind is the relationship between the environment in which Paul was born and developed and the global context in which he successively inserted himself. He came from a very precise and specific culture, certainly of the minority, which was that of the people of Israel and their tradition. In the ancient world and notably at the heart of the Roman Empire, as scholars of the subject teach us, the Jews constituted about 10% of the total population. Here in Rome, their number around the middle of the first century was even fewer, reaching a maximum of 3% of the inhabitants of the city.

Their beliefs and lifestyle, as happens also today, distinguished them clearly from the surrounding environment. And this could have two results: either derision, which might lead to intolerance, or admiration, which was expressed in different ways, such as the case of the "God-fearing" or "proselyte," pagans who associated themselves in the synagogue and shared the faith in the God of Israel.

As concrete examples of this double attitude we can mention, on one hand, the sharp judgment of an orator such as Cicero, who scorned their religion and even the city of Jerusalem (cf. Pro Flacco, 66-69), and on the other, the attitude of Poppea, Nero's wife, who is remembered by Flavius Josephus as a "sympathizer" of the Jews (cf. Antichita giudaiche 20, 195.252; Vita 16). And we should note Julius Caesar had already officially recognized particular rights for them, noted by the already-mentioned Jewish historian, Flavius Josephus (cf. Ibid. 14, 200-216). What is certain is that the number of Jews, as is true today, was far greater outside the land of Israel, namely, in the Diaspora, and not in the territory that others called Palestine.

It is no wonder, then, that Paul himself was the object of the double, contrasting evaluation, of which I have spoken. One thing is certain: The particularity of the Jewish culture and religion easily found a place within a reality as all-pervasive as the Roman Empire. More difficult and trying was the position of the group of those Jews and Gentiles who adhered in faith to the person of Jesus of Nazareth, insofar as they were distinguished both from Judaism and the prevailing paganism.

In any case, two factors favored Paul's commitment. The first was the Greek, or rather the Hellenistic culture, which after Alexander the Great became the common patrimony at least of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East, though integrating within itself many elements of peoples traditionally regarded as barbarians. A writer of the time states, in this regard, that Alexander "ordered that all keep the whole 'ecumene' [inhabited earth] as homeland ... and that there be no longer a distinction between Greek and Barbarian" (Plutarch, De Alexandri Magni fortuna aut virtute, paragraphs 6.8).

The second factor was the political-administrative structure of the Roman Empire, which guaranteed peace and stability from Britain to southern Egypt, unifying a territory of a dimension never before seen. In this space, one could move with sufficient liberty and security, enjoying among other things an extraordinary road system, and finding in every point of arrival, basic cultural characteristics that, without detriment to local values, represented in any case a common fabric of unification "super partes," so much so that the Jewish philosopher Philo of Alexandria, contemporary of Paul himself, praises the emperor Augustus because he "has brought together in harmony all the savage peoples ... becoming a guardian of peace" (Legatio ad Caium, paragraphs 146-147).

The universalistic vision typical of St. Paul's personality, at least of the Christian Paul after the event on the road to Damascus, certainly owes its basic impetus to faith in Jesus Christ, inasmuch as the figure of the Risen One goes beyond that of any particularistic restriction. In fact, for the apostle "there is no longer Jew or Greek, no longer slave or free man, no longer male or female, but all are only one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28). Yet, the historical-cultural situation of his time and environment also influenced his choices and commitment. Paul has been described as a "man of three cultures," taking into account his Jewish origin, Greek language, and his prerogative of "civis romanus," as attested also by his name of Latin origin.

We must recall in particular the Stoic philosophy, which prevailed in Paul's time and also influenced, though marginally, Christianity. In this connection, we cannot but mention the names of Stoic philosophers, such as the initiators Zeno and Cleanthes, and then those chronologically closer to Paul, such as Seneca, Musonius and Epictetus. Found in them are very lofty values of humanity and wisdom, which were naturally received in Christianity. As a scholar on the subject writes masterfully, "Stoicism ... proclaimed a new ideal, which imposed on man duties toward his fellowmen, but at the same time freed him from all physical and national ties and made him a purely spiritual being" (M. Pohlenz, La Stoa, I, Florence 2, 1978, pp. 565ff).

It is enough to think, for example, of the doctrine of the universe understood as one great harmonious body and, consequently, of the doctrine of the equality of all men without social distinctions, to the equating at least in principle of man and woman, and then the ideal of frugality, of the just measure and of self-control to avoid all excesses. When Paul writes to the Philippians: "Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things" (Philippians 4:8), does no more than take up a strictly humanist concept proper to that philosophical wisdom.

In Paul's time, there was also a crisis of the traditional religion, at least in its mythological and also civic aspects. After Lucretius, already a century earlier, had controversially stated that "religion has led to so many misdeeds" (De rerum natura 1, 101), a philosopher such as Seneca, going well beyond any external ritualism, taught that "God is close to you, he is with you, he is within you" (Lettere a Lucilio, 41, 1).

Similarly, when Paul addressed an auditorium of Epicurean philosophers in the Areopagus in Athens, he says literally that "God does not live in shrines made by man ... but in him we live and move and have our being" (Acts 17: 24.28). With this, he certainly echoes the Jewish faith in one God that cannot be represented in anthropomorphic terms, but he also follows a religious line with which his listeners were familiar. We must take into account, moreover, that many educated pagans did not frequent the official temples of the city, and went to private places that promoted the initiation of followers.

Not a motive for wonder, therefore, was the fact that Christian meetings (the "ekklesiai"), as attested to especially in the Pauline Letters, took place in private homes. At the time, moreover, there was still no public building. Therefore, the meetings of Christians must have seemed to their contemporaries as a simple variation of this more intimate religious practice. Nevertheless, the differences between pagan and Christian worship are not of slight importance and involved as much the awareness of the participants' identity as well as the common participation of men and women, the celebration of the "Lord's Supper" and the reading of the Scriptures.

In conclusion, from this brief review of the cultural environment of the first century of the Christian era, it is clear that it is not possible to understand St. Paul adequately without considering the background, both Jewish as well as pagan, of his time. Thus his figure acquires a historical and ideal depth, revealing shared and original elements of the environment. However, this is also equally true for Christianity in general, of which the Apostle Paul is a paradigm of the first order, from whom all of us today have much to learn. This is the objective of the Pauline Year: to learn the faith from him, to learn from him who Christ is, to learn, in the end, the path for an upright life.

[The Pope then greeted pilgrims in several languages. In English, he said:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Last Sunday, the Solemnity of the Apostles Peter and Paul, marked the beginning of a Year dedicated to the figure and teaching of the Apostle Paul. Today's Audience begins a new series of catecheses aimed at understanding more deeply the thought of Saint Paul and its continuing relevance. Paul, as we know, was a Jew, and consequently a member of a distinct cultural minority in the Roman Empire. At the same time, he spoke Greek, the language of the wider Hellenistic culture, and was a Roman citizen. Paul's proclamation of the Risen Christ, while grounded in Judaism, was marked by a universalist vision and it was facilitated by his familiarity with three cultures. He was thus able to draw from the spiritual richness of contemporary philosophy, and Stoicism in particular, in his preaching of the Gospel. The crisis of traditional Greco-Roman religion in Paul's time had also fostered a greater concern for a personal experience of God. As we see from his sermon before the Areopagus in Athens (cf. Acts 17:22ff.), Paul was able to appeal to these currents of thought in his presentation of the Good News. Against this broad cultural background, Paul developed his teaching, which we will explore in the catecheses of this Pauline Year.

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Paul's Biography
"He Dedicated Himself to the Proclamation of the Gospel" (August 27, 2008)

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In the last catechesis before the holidays -- two months ago, at the beginning of July -- I began a new series of topics on the occasion of the Pauline Year, reflecting on the way St. Paul lived. Today I would like to take up again and continue the reflection on the Apostle of the Gentiles, proposing a brief biography of him.

Because we will dedicate next Wednesday to the extraordinary event that occurred on the road to Damascus, Paul's conversion, an essential change in his life that followed from his meeting with Christ, today we will pause briefly on the whole of his life.

We have the biographical extreme points of Paul's life respectively in the Letter to Philemon, in which he declares himself "old" (Philemon 9: "presbytes"), and in the Acts of the Apostles, which at the moment of Stephen's stoning describe him as "young" (7:58: "neanias"). The two designations are evidently generic, but, according to ancient computations, a man around 30 years old was described as "young," while "old" was said when a man reached around 60.

In absolute terms, the date of Paul's birth depends to a great extent on the dating of the Letter to Philemon. Traditionally, its writing is dated during his Roman imprisonment, in the mid 60s. Hence, Paul would have been born in the year 8; he would have been more or less 60 years old, while at the moment of Stephen's stoning he was 30. This must be the correct chronology. In fact, the celebration of the Pauline Year we are observing follows this chronology. 2008 was chosen thinking of his birth more or less in the year 8.

In any case, he was born in Tarsus in Cilicia (cf Acts 22:3). The city was the administrative headquarters of the region and in 51 B.C. It had as proconsul none other than Marcus Tullius Cicero, while 10 years later, in 41, Tarsus was the site of the first meeting between Mark Anthony and Cleopatra.

A Jew of the Diaspora, he spoke Greek although having a name of Latin origin, derived by assonance from the Hebrew original Saul/Saulos, and he held Roman citizenship (cf. Acts 22:25-28). Paul seems to be situated, therefore, on the border of the various cultures -- Roman, Greek, Hebrew -- and perhaps also because of this was disposed to fruitful universal openness, to a mediation between cultures, to a true universality.

He also learned manual work, perhaps from his father, consisting of the work of "tent maker" (cf. Acts 18:3: skenopoios), to be understood probably as laborer of coarse goat's wool or linen fibers to make mats or tents (cf. Acts 20:33-35). Toward the year 12-13, the age in which a Jewish boy becomes "bar mitzvah" (son of the precept), Paul left Tarsus and went to Jerusalem to be educated at the feet of Rabbi Gamaliel the Elder, nephew of the great Rabbi Hillel, according to the most rigid norms of Pharisaism and acquiring a great zeal for the Mosaic Torah (cf Galatians 1:14; Philippians 3:5-6; Acts 22:3; 23:6; 26:5).

On the basis of this profound orthodoxy that he learned in the school of Hillel in Jerusalem, he saw in the new movement of Jesus of Nazareth a risk, a menace for Jewish identity, for the fathers' true orthodoxy. This explains the fact that he had fiercely "persecuted the Church of God," as he admitted three times in his Letters (1 Corinthians 15:9; Galatians 1:13; Philippians 3:6). Even if it is not easy to imagine specifically in what this persecution consisted of, his had, in any case, an attitude of intolerance.

It is here that the event of Damascus is situated, to which we will return in the next catechesis. It is certain that, from that moment on, his life changed and he became a tireless Apostle of the Gospel. In fact, Paul passed into history more as a Christian, what is more, as an Apostle, than as a Pharisee. His apostolic activity is subdivided traditionally on the basis of three missionary journeys, to which is added a fourth -- his journey to Rome as a prisoner. All are narrated by Luke in the Acts. In regard to the three missionary journeys, however, it is necessary to distinguish the first from the other two.

For the first, in fact (cf. Acts 13-14), Paul did not have direct responsibility, as it was entrusted instead to the Cypriot Barnabas. Together they departed from Antioch on the Oronte, sent by that Church (cf. Acts 13:1-3), and later, having set sail from the port of Seleucia on the Syrian coast, they traversed the island of Cyprus from Salamis to Paphos; from here they reached the southern coasts of Anatolia, today's Turkey, and stopped at the city of Attalia, Perga of Pamphilia, Antioch of Pisidia, Iconium, Lystra and Derbe, from which they returned to the point of departure.

Thus was born the Church of the people, the Church of the pagans. In the meantime, above all in Jerusalem, a harsh discussion arose as to what point these Christians from paganism were obliged to participate in the life and laws of Israel -- all the observances and prescriptions that separated Israel from the rest of the world -- to be truly participants of the promises of the prophets and to enter effectively into Israel's the heritage.

To resolve this fundamental problem for the birth of the future Church, Paul met in Jerusalem with the so-called Council of the Apostles, to resolve this problem on which the effective birth of the universal Church depended. It was decided not to impose on converted pagans the observance of the Mosaic Law (cf. Acts 15:6-30); that is, they were not obliged to observe the norms of Judaism. The only need was to belong to Christ, to live with Christ and according to his words. Thus, being of Christ, they were also of Abraham, of God and participants of all the promises.

After this decisive event, Paul left Barnabas, chose Silas and began his second missionary journey (cf Acts 15:36-18, 22). Going beyond Syria and Cilicia, he again saw the city of Lystra, where he took with him Timothy -- a very important figure of the nascent Church, son of a Jewess and a pagan -- and had him circumcised, he went across central Anatolia and reached the city of Troas on the northern coast of the Aegean Sea. And here another important event took place: In a dream he saw a Macedonian from the other side of the sea, namely in Europe, who said, "Come and help us!"

It was the future Europe that requested the help and light of the Gospel. Spurred on by this vision, he entered Europe, sailing from Macedonia and thus entering Europe. Disembarking in Neapolis, he arrived in Philippi, where he founded an admirable Christian community. Then he went to Thessalonica, and left the latter because of difficulties caused by the Jews, traveled to Beroea, and then continued to Athens.

In this capital of ancient Greek culture he preached to pagans and Greeks, first in the Agora and then in the Areopagus. And the speech in the Areopagus, referred to in the Acts of the Apostles, was a model of how to translate the Gospel into Greek culture, and of how to make the Greeks understand that this God of Christians and Jews, was not a God who was foreign to their culture, but the unknown God awaited by them, the true answer to the most profound questions of their culture.

After Athens he arrived in Corinth, where he stayed for a year and a half. And here we have a very certain chronological event, the most certain of his whole biography, because during this first stay in Corinth he had to appear before the governor of the senatorial province of Achaia, Proconsul Gallione, on accusations of illegal worship.

Regarding Gallione, there is an ancient inscription found in Delphi where it is said that he was proconsul of Corinth between the years 51 and 53. Hence, here we have an absolute certain fact. Paul's stay in Corinth took place in those years. Hence we may suppose that he arrived more or less in the year 50 and stayed until the year 52. Then, from Corinth, passing through Cencre, the city's eastern port, he went to Palestine reaching Caesarea Maritima, and from there he left for Jerusalem to return later to Antioch on the Oronte.

The third missionary journey (cf. Acts 18:23-21:16) began as usual in Antioch, which had become the point of origin of the Church of the pagans, of the mission to the pagans, and was also the place where the term "Christians" was born. Here for the first time, St. Luke tells us, Jesus' followers were called "Christians."

From there Paul went directly to Ephesus, capital of the province of Asia, where he stayed for two years, carrying out a ministry that had fruitful returns for the region. From Ephesus, Paul wrote the Letters to the Thessalonians and Corinthians. The population of the city, however, was incited against him by the local silversmiths, who saw their income diminish given the decline of the worship of Artemis -- the temple dedicated to her in Ephesus, the Artemysion, was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Because of this he had to flee to the north. Having crossed Macedonia once more, he went down again to Greece, probably to Corinth, staying there for three months and writing the famous Letter to the Romans.

From here he retraced his steps: Passing back through Macedonia, he sailed to Troy, and then, briefly visiting the islands of Miletus, Chios, Samos, he reached Miletus where he gave an important address to the elders of the Church of Ephesus, sketching a portrait of the true pastor of the Church (cf. Acts 20).

From here he set sail for Tyre, from where he reached Caesarea Maritima to go once again to Jerusalem. Here he was arrested because of a misunderstanding: Some Jews had mistaken other Jews of Greek origin for pagans, introduced by Paul in the Temple area reserved only for the Israelites. The planned sentence to death was avoided by the intervention of the Roman tribune guarding the area of the Temple (cf. Acts 21:27-36). This occurred while the imperial Procurator Anthony Felicius was in Judea. After spending a period in prison -- whose duration is debatable -- Paul, being a Roman citizen, appealed to Caesar -- who at the time was Nero -- and the subsequent Procurator Porcio Festo sent him to Rome under military custody.

The journey to Rome touched the Mediterranean islands of Crete and Malta, and then the cities of Syracuse, Rhegium and Puteoli. The Christians of Rome went to meet him on the Via Appia at the Appia Forum (70 kilometers south of the capital) and others at the Three Taverns (40 kilometers).

In Rome he met with delegates of the Jewish community, to whom he confided that it was for "the hope of Israel" that he endured his chains (cf. Acts 28:20). However, Luke's account ends with the mention of two years in Rome under house arrest, without reference either to a sentence of Caesar (Nero), or even less so to the death of the accused.

Subsequent traditions speak of a liberation, which would have favored a missionary journey to Spain or an eventual short trip to the East, specifically to Crete, Ephesus and Nicopolis in Epirus. Always on a hypothetical basis, a new arrest is conjectured and a second imprisonment in Rome -- from where he would have written the three so-called pastoral letters, namely the two to Timothy and the one to Titus, with a second trial, that turned out to be unfavorable to him. However, a series of reasons induce many scholars of St. Paul to end the Apostle's biography with Luke's account in the Acts.

We will turn to his martyrdom later on in the cycle of these catecheses. For now, in this brief account of Paul's journeys, suffice it to take into account how he dedicated himself to the proclamation of the Gospel without sparing his energy and facing a series of grave trials, of which he has left us an account in the second Letter to the Corinthians (cf 11:21-28).

Of the rest, he writes: "I do it all for the sake of the Gospel" (1Corinthians 9:23), exercising with absolute generosity what he calls his "anxiety for all the Churches" (2 Corinthians 11:28). We see a determination that is explained only by a soul truly fascinated by the light of the Gospel, enamored of Christ, a soul sustained by a profound conviction: That it is necessary to take the light of Christ to the world, to proclaim the Gospel to all.

This I think is what stays with us from this brief account of St. Paul's journeys: to see his passion for the Gospel, and thus intuit the grandeur, the beauty, and even more, the deep need that all of us have of the Gospel. Let us pray so that the Lord, who made Paul see his light and hear his word and touched his heart profoundly, make us also see his light, so that our hearts will also be touched by his word and so that we too will be able to give today's world, which thirsts for it, the light of the Gospel and the truth of Christ.

[The Holy Father then greeted pilgrims in several languages. In English, he said:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today's catechesis presents the life of Saint Paul, the great missionary whom the Church honors in a special way this year. Born a Jew in Tarsus, he received the Hebrew name "Saul" and was trained as a "tent maker" (cf. Acts 18:3). Around the age of twelve he departed for Jerusalem to begin instruction in the strict Pharisaic tradition which instilled in him a great zeal for the Mosaic Law. On the basis of this training, Paul viewed the Christian movement as a threat to orthodox Judaism. He thus fiercely "persecuted the Church of God" (1 Corinthians 19:6; Galatians 1:13; Philippians 3:6) until a dramatic encounter on the road to Damascus radically changed his life. He subsequently undertook three missionary journeys, preaching Christ in Anatolia, Syria, Cilicia, Macedonia, Achaia, and throughout the Mediterranean. After his arrest and imprisonment in Jerusalem, Paul exercised his right as a Roman citizen to appeal his case to the Emperor. Though Luke makes no reference to Nero's decision, he tells us that Paul spent two years under house arrest in Rome (cf. Acts 28:30), after which -- according to tradition -- he suffered a martyr's death. Paul spared no energy and endured many trials in his "anxiety for all the Churches" (2 Corinthians 11:28). Indeed, he wrote: "I do everything for the sake of the Gospel" (1 Corinthians 9:23). May we strive to emulate him by doing the same.

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Paul's Conversion
"We Are Christians Only If We Encounter Christ"

VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 3, 2008 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered during today's general audience in Paul VI Hall.

The Holy Father continued today the cycle of catecheses dedicated to the figure and thought of St. Paul.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

Today's catechesis will be dedicated to the experience St. Paul had on the road to Damascus, commonly called his conversion. Precisely on the road to Damascus, in the first 30 years of the first century, and following a period in which he persecuted the Church, the decisive moment of Paul's life took place. Much has been written about it and, of course, from many points of view. The fact is that a complete turnabout took place there, a total change of perspective. Henceforth, unexpectedly, he began to consider as "loss" and "rubbish" all that before was for him the highest ideal, almost the raison d'etre of his existence (Philippians 3:7-8). What happened?

In this respect, we have two sources. The first type, the most well-known, are the accounts owed to Luke's pen, who on three occasions narrates the event in the Acts of the Apostles (cf. 9:1-19; 22:3-21; 26:4-23). The average reader, perhaps, might be tempted to pause too long on certain details, such as the light from the sky, the fall to the ground, the voice that called, the new state of blindness, the curing when something like scales fall from his eyes and the fasting. However, all these details point to the heart of the event: The Risen Christ appeared as a splendid light and addressed Saul, transforming his thinking and his very life. The splendor of the Risen One left him blind; presenting also externally what the interior reality was, his blindness in regard to the truth, to the light, which is Christ. And then, his definitive "yes" to Christ in baptism reopens his eyes, and makes him truly see.

In the early Church, baptism was also called "illumination," because this sacrament gives light, makes one truly see. All that is indicated theologically was realized in Paul also physically: Once cured of his interior blindness, he sees well. Hence, St. Paul was not transformed by a thought but by an event, by the irresistible presence of the Risen One, whom he could never again doubt, so strong had been the evidence of the event, of that encounter. The latter changed Paul's life fundamentally. In this connection, one can and must speak of a conversion. This meeting is the center of St. Luke's account, who quite possibly used an account born, probably, in the community of Damascus. The local coloring suggests this by the presence of Ananias and the names, both of the street as well as of the owner of the house where Paul stayed (Cf. Acts 9:11).

The second type of source on the conversion is made up of St. Paul's letters themselves. He never spoke in detail about this event; I think he assumed that everyone knew the essentials of his story. All knew that from being a persecutor, he was transformed into a fervent apostle of Christ. And this did not happen at the end of his own reflection but of an intense event, of an encounter with the Risen One. Although not mentioning details, he refers to this most important event, that is, that he is also a witness of the resurrection of Jesus, the revelation of which he has received directly from Jesus himself, together with the mission of apostle.

The clearest text on this aspect is found in his account of what constitutes the center of the history of salvation: the death and resurrection of Jesus and the apparitions to witnesses (cf. 1 Corinthians 15). With words of very ancient tradition, which he also received from the Church of Jerusalem, he says that Jesus died crucified, was buried, and after his resurrection appeared first to Cephas, that is, Peter, then to the Twelve, and afterwards to 500 brothers who were still alive at that time, then to James, and then to all the apostles.

And to this account, received from tradition, he adds: "Last of all ... he appeared also to me" (1 Corinthians 15:8). Thus he clarifies that this is the foundation of his apostolate and of his new life. There are also other texts in which the same reference appears: "Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship (cf. Romans 1:5); and elsewhere: "Have I not seen Jesus our Lord?" (1 Corinthians 9:1), words with which he alludes to something that all know. Finally, the most complete text is found in Galatians 1:15-17: "But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and had called me through his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not confer with flesh and blood, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia; and again I returned to Damascus." In this "self-apology" he underlines decidedly that he is also a true witness of the Risen One, that he has a mission received directly from the Risen One.

We can see that the two sources, the Acts of the Apostles and the Letters of St. Paul, converge in a fundamental point: The Risen One spoke with Paul, called him to the apostolate, made him a true apostle, a witness of the resurrection, with the specific charge to proclaim the Gospel to the pagans, to the Greco-Roman world. And, at the same time, Paul learned that, despite the immediateness of his relationship with the Risen One, he must enter the communion of the Church, be baptized, and live in harmony with the other apostles. Only in this communion with all will he be able to be a true apostle, as he wrote explicitly in the First Letter to the Corinthians: "Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed" (15:11). There is only one proclamation of the Risen One, because Christ is only one.

As we see in these passages, Paul never interprets this moment as an event of conversion. Why? There are many theories, but the reason is very obvious. This change of his life, this transformation of his whole being was not the result of a psychological process, of a maturation or intellectual and moral evolution, but it came from outside: It was not the result of his thinking but of the encounter with Jesus Christ. In this sense it was not simply a conversion, a maturing of his "I," rather, it was death and resurrection for himself: a life of his died and a new one was born with the Risen Christ.

In no other way can this renewal of Paul be explained. All psychological analyses cannot clarify or resolve the problem. Only the event, the intense encounter with Christ is the key to understand what happened: death and resurrection, renewal on the part of him who revealed himself and spoke with him. It is in this more profound sense that we can and must speak of conversion. This meeting was a real renewal that changed all his parameters. One can now say that what before was essential and fundamental for him, now has become "rubbish" for him; there is no longer "gain" but loss, because now only life in Christ is what counts.

However, we must not think that Paul locked himself blindly in an event. In reality, the opposite occurred, because the risen Christ is the light of truth, the light of God himself. This enlarged his heart, and opened it to all. At that moment, he did not lose all that was good and true in his life, in his heritage, but understood in a new way the wisdom, truth, and depth of the law and the prophets; he appropriated them in a new way. At the same time, his reason opened to the wisdom of the pagans. Having opened himself to Christ with all his heart, he became able to engage in a wider dialogue with all, he made himself everything to all. Hence he could really be the apostle to the pagans.

Let us now look at our situation. What does this mean for us? It means that also for us, Christianity is not a new philosophy or new morality. We are Christians only if we encounter Christ. Of course he does not show himself to us in that irresistible, luminous way, as he did with Paul to make him Apostle of the Gentiles.

However, we can also encounter Christ in the reading of sacred Scripture, in prayer, in the liturgical life of the Church. We can touch Christ's heart and feel him touch ours. Only in this personal relationship with Christ, only in this encounter with the Risen One do we really become Christians. And in this way, our reason opens, the whole of Christ's wisdom opens and all the richness of the truth. Therefore, let us pray to the Lord to enlighten us, so that, in our world, he will grant us the encounter with his presence, and thus give us a lively faith, an open heart, and great charity for all, capable of renewing the world.

[The Holy Father then greeted the pilgrims in several languages. In English, he said:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today's catechesis focuses on Saint Paul's conversion. In the Acts of the Apostles, Saint Luke recounts for us the dramatic episode on the road to Damascus which transformed Paul from a fierce persecutor of the Church into a zealous evangelizer. In his own letters, Paul describes his experience not so much in terms of a conversion, but as a call to apostleship and a commission to preach the Gospel. In the first instance, this was an encounter not with concepts or ideas but with the person of Jesus himself. In fact, Paul met not only the historical Jesus of the past, but the living Christ who revealed himself as the one Saviour and Lord. Similarly, the ultimate source of our own conversion lies neither in esoteric philosophical theories nor abstract moral codes, but in Christ and his Gospel. He alone defines our identity as Christians, since in him we discover the ultimate meaning of our lives. Paul, because Christ had made him his own (cf. Phil 3:12), could not help but preach the Good News he had received (cf. 1 Cor 9:16). So it is with us. Transfixed by the greatness of our Saviour, we - like Saint Paul - cannot help but speak of him to others. May we always do so with joyful conviction!

I welcome all the English-speaking visitors present at today's Audience including the Missionary Sisters Servants of the Holy Spirit and a group of Maltese altar boys currently serving in Saint Peter's Basilica. May your visit to Rome strengthen your commitment to share the Good News of Jesus Christ. Upon all of you, I invoke God's abundant blessings of joy and peace.

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On Paul, an Apostle of Christ
"Love Is the True Wealth of Human Life"

VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 10, 2008 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave at today's general audience, held in Paul VI Hall in the Vatican. The Pope arrived for the gathering by helicopter from the papal summer residence of Castel Gandolfo, south of Rome.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Last Wednesday I spoke about the great turning point in St. Paul's life after his encounter with the Risen Christ. Jesus entered his life and transformed him from persecutor into apostle. That meeting marked the start of his mission. Paul could not continue to live as he did before. Now he felt invested by the Lord with the charge to proclaim his Gospel as an apostle.

It is precisely about this new condition of life, namely of his being an apostle of Christ, that I would like to speak today. In keeping with the Gospel, we normally identify the Twelve with the title of apostles, thus intending to indicate those who were life companions and hearers of Jesus' teaching. But Paul also feels himself a true apostle and it seems clear, therefore, that the Pauline concept of apostolate is not restricted to the group of Twelve.

Obviously, Paul is able to distinguish well his own case from that of those "who were apostles before" him (Galatians 1:17): He recognizes for them an all-together special place in the life of the Church.

However, as everyone knows, Paul also sees himself as apostle in the strict sense. It is true that, at the time of the Christian origins, no one traveled as many kilometers as he did, by earth and sea, with the sole object of proclaiming the Gospel.

Hence, he had an idea of the apostolate that went beyond that left to the group of Twelve, and handed down above all by St. Luke in the Acts (cf. Acts 1-2:26; 6:2). In fact, in the First Letter to the Corinthians Paul makes a clear distinction between "the Twelve" and "all the apostles," mentioned as two different groups to benefit from the apparitions of the Risen One (cf. 14:5.7).

In that same text he then goes on to humbly name himself "the least of the apostles," comparing himself to an abortion and affirming literally: "not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me has not been ineffective. Indeed, I have toiled harder than all of them; not I, however, but the grace of God (that is) with me." (1 Corinthians 15:9-10).

The metaphor of the abortion expresses extreme humility; it is also found in the Letter to the Romans of St. Ignatius of Antioch: "I am the least of all, I am an abortion, but it will be given to me to be something, if I reach God" (9:2). What the bishop of Antioch will say in relation to his imminent martyrdom, foreseeing that it would reverse his unworthy condition, St. Paul says in relation to his own apostolic commitment: It is in this that the fruitfulness of God's grace is manifested, who knows how to transform an unsuccessful man into a splendid apostle. From persecutor to founder of Churches: This is what God has done in one who, from the evangelical point of view, could have been considered rejected!

According to St. Paul's conception, what has God made of him and of the other apostles? In his letters three main characteristics appear, which constitute the apostle. The first is to have "seen the Lord" (cf. 1 Corinthians 9:1), namely, to have had a decisive encounter with him, virtually chosen, by the grace of God with the revelation of his Son in view of the joyful proclamation to the pagans. In a word, it is the Lord who constitutes the apostolate, not one's presumption. The apostle does not make himself, but is made by the Lord. Hence, the apostle needs to refer constantly to the Lord. It is no accident that Paul says he was "called to be an apostle" (Romans 1:1), that is, "not from human beings nor through a human being but through Jesus Christ and God the Father" (Galatians 1:1). This is the first characteristic: to have seen the Lord, to have been called by him.

The second characteristic is to "have been sent." The Greek term "apostolos" itself means, in fact, "sent, ordered," that is, ambassador and bearer of a message; therefore he must act as charged with and representative of a mandate. It is because of this that Paul describes himself as "Apostle of Jesus Christ" (1 Corinthians 1:1; 2 Corinthians 1:1), namely, his delegate, placed totally at his service, so much so as to call himself "a slave of Jesus Christ" (Romans 1:1). Once again the idea appears in the first place of another initiative, that of God in Jesus Christ, to whom one is fully obliged, but above all the fact is underlined that a mission was received from him to fulfill in his name, putting absolutely in second place all personal interests.

The third requisite is the exercise of the "proclamation of the Gospel," with the consequent foundation of Churches. The title "apostle," in fact, is not and cannot be honorific. It entails concretely and even dramatically the whole existence of the subject in question. In the First Letter to the Corinthians, Paul exclaims: "Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not my work in the Lord?" (9:1).

Similarly in the Second Letter to the Corinthians he affirms: "You are our letter ... a letter of Christ administered by us, written not in ink but by the Spirit of the living God" (3:2-3).

Do not be surprised, then, if [St. John] Chrysostom speaks of Paul as "a diamond soul" (Panegirici, 1,8), and continues saying: "In the same way that fire applying itself to different materials is reinforced even more ... so Paul's word won to his cause all those with whom he related, and those who made war on him, captivated by his speeches, became fuel for this spiritual fire" (ibid., 7,11). This explains why Paul describes apostles as "God's co-workers" (1 Corinthians 3:9; 2 Corinthians 6:1), whose grace acts with them.

A typical element of the true apostle, brought well into the light by St. Paul, is a sort of identification between the Gospel and the evangelizer, both destined to the same end. No one like Paul, in fact, has evidenced how the proclamation of the cross of Christ appears as "a stumbling block" and "foolishness" (1 Corinthians 1:23), to which many react with incomprehension and rejection. This occurred at that time, and it should not be surprising that the same happens also today. The apostle also shares in the destiny of appearing as "a stumbling block" and "foolishness," and Paul knows it; this is the experience of his life.

To the Corinthians he wrote, not without a trace of irony: "For as I see it, God has exhibited us apostles as the last of all, like people sentenced to death, since we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels and human beings alike. We are fools on Christ's account, but you are wise in Christ; we are weak, but you are strong; you are held in honor, but we in disrepute. To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are poorly clad and roughly treated, we wander about homeless and we toil, working with our own hands. When ridiculed, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we respond gently. We have become like the world's rubbish, the scum of all, to this very moment" (1 Corinthians 4:9-13). It is a self-portrait of St. Paul's apostolic life: In all these sufferings the joy prevails of being bearers of God's blessing and of the grace of the Gospel.

Paul, moreover, shares with the Stoic philosophy of his time the idea of a tenacious constancy in all the difficulties that come his way; but he surpasses the merely humanistic perspective, recalling the component of the love of God and of Christ. "What will separate us from the love of Christ? Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword? As it is written: 'For your sake we are being slain all the day; we are looked upon as sheep to be slaughtered.' No, in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:35-39).

This is the certainty, the profound joy that guides the Apostle Paul in all these affairs: Nothing can separate us from the love of God. And this love is the true wealth of human life.

As can be seen, St. Paul gave himself to the Gospel with all this life; we can say 24 hours out of 24! And he carried out his ministry with fidelity and joy, "to save at least some" (1 Corinthians 9:22).

And in his encounters with the Churches, though knowing he had a relationship of paternity with them (cf. 1 Corinthians 4:15) if not really of maternity (cf. Galatians 4:19), he put himself in an attitude of complete service, stating admirably: "Not that we lord it over your faith; rather, we work together for your joy, for you stand firm in the faith" (2 Corinthians 1:24). This remains the mission of all the apostles of Christ in all times: to be fellow workers of true joy.

[Translation by ZENIT]

[The Pope then greeted pilgrims in several languages. In English, he said]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In today’s catechesis we turn to Saint Paul’s view of what it means to be an apostle of Jesus Christ. Though he did not belong to the group of the Twelve, called by Jesus during his ministry, Paul nevertheless claims the title for himself because he was chosen and transformed by the grace of God, and shared the three principal characteristics of the true apostle. The first is to have seen the Lord (1 Cor 9:1) and to have been called by him. One becomes an apostle by divine vocation, not by personal choice. The second characteristic also underlines the divine initiative: an apostle is someone who is sent and therefore acts and speaks as a delegate of Christ, placed totally at his service. The third characteristic is dedication to the work of proclaiming the Gospel and founding Christian communities. Saint Paul can point to his many trials and sufferings that speak clearly of his courageous dedication to the mission (cf. 2 Cor 11:23-28). In this context he sees an identification between the life of the apostle and the Gospel that he preaches; the apostle himself is despised when the Gospel is rejected. Saint Paul was steadfast in his many difficulties and persecutions, sustained above all by the unfailing love of Christ (cf. Rom 8:35-39). May the example of his apostolic zeal inspire and encourage us today!

I am happy to greet all the English-speaking visitors and pilgrims present at today’s audience, including the All Party Parliamentary Group from the United Kingdom, and the participants in the seminar on Social Communications at the Santa Croce Pontifical University. I also greet the groups from England, Ireland, Denmark, Sweden, South Africa, Zambia, India and the United States of America. May your pilgrimage renew your love for the Lord and his Church, and may God bless you all!

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On Paul and the Other Apostles
"He Insists on Fidelity to What He Himself Has Received"

VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 24, 2008 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered during today's general audience in St. Peter's Square.

The Holy Father continued today the cycle of catecheses dedicated to the figure and thought of St. Paul.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today I would like to speak about the relationship between St. Paul and the apostles who preceded him in the following of Jesus. These relationships were always marked by profound respect and by the frankness that in Paul stemmed from the defense of the truth of the Gospel. Although he was practically a contemporary of Jesus of Nazareth, he never had the opportunity to meet him during his public life. Because of this, after the dazzling light on the road to Damascus, he saw the need to consult the first disciples of the Master, who had been chosen by [Christ] to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth.

In the Letter to the Galatians, Paul elaborates an important report on the contacts maintained with some of the Twelve: above all with Peter, who had been chosen as Cephas, Aramaic word that means rock, on which the Church was built (cf. Galatians 1:18), with James, the "Lord's brother" (cf. Galatians 1:19), and with John (cf. Galatians 2:9). Paul does not hesitate to acknowledge them as the "pillars" of the Church. Particularly significant is the meeting with Cephas (Peter), which took place in Jerusalem. Paul stayed with him for 15 days to "consult him" (cf. Galatians 1:19), that is, to be informed on the earthly life of the Risen One, who had "seized" him on the road to Damascus and was changing his life radically: from persecutor of the Church of God he became evangelizer of faith in the crucified Messiah and Son of God, which in the past he had tried to destroy (cf. Galatians 1:23).

What type of information did Paul obtain on Jesus in the three years after the encounter of Damascus? In the First Letter to the Corinthians we find two passages, which Paul had learned in Jerusalem and which had been formulated as central elements of the Christian tradition, the constitutive tradition. He transmits them verbally, exactly as he has received them, with a very solemn formula: "I delivered to you ... what I also received."

He insists, therefore, on fidelity to what he himself has received and transmits faithfully to the new Christians. They are constitutive elements and concern the Eucharist and the Resurrection. They are texts already formulated in the [decade of] the 30s. Thus we come to the death, burial in the heart of the earth and resurrection of Jesus (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:3-4).

Let's take one at a time: the words of Jesus in the Last Supper (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:23-25) really are for Paul the center of the life of the Church. The Church is built from this center, being in this way herself. In addition to this Eucharistic center, from which the Church is always reborn -- also for all Paul's theology, for all his thought -- these words have a notable impact on Paul's personal relationship with Jesus. On one hand, they attest that the Eucharist illumines the curse of the cross, changing it into a blessing (Galatians 3:13-14), and on the other, they explain the breadth of the very death and resurrection of Jesus. In his letters, the "for you" of the institution becomes the "for me" (Galatians 2:20), personalized, knowing that in that "you" he himself was known and loved by Jesus and, on the other hand, "for all" (2 Corinthians 5:L14): this "for you" becomes "for me" and "for the Church" (Ephesians 5:25), that is, also "for all" of the expiatory sacrifice of the cross (cf. Romans 3:25). By and in the Eucharist, the Church is built and recognizes herself as "Body of Christ" (1 Corinthians 12:27), nourished every day by the strength of the Spirit of the Risen One.

The other text, on the Resurrection, transmits to us again the same formula of fidelity. St. Paul wrote: "For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve" (1 Corinthians 15:3-5). Also in this tradition transmitted to Paul he again mentions the expression "for our sins," which underlines the gift that Jesus has made of himself to the Father, to deliver us from sin and death. From this gift of himself, Paul draws the most moving and fascinating expressions of our relationship with Christ: "For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21). "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich (2 Corinthians 8:9). It is worthwhile to recall the commentary with which the then Augustinian monk Martin Luther accompanied these paradoxical expressions of Paul: "This is the grandiose mystery of divine grace toward sinners: by an admirable exchange our sins no longer are ours, but Christ's, and the righteousness of Christ is no longer Christ's but ours" (Commentary on the Psalms from 1513-1515). And so we have been saved.

In the original kerygma -- proclamation -- transmitted from mouth to mouth, it is worth pointing out the use of the verb "has risen," instead of "rose" which would have been more logical, in continuity with "died" and "was buried." The verbal form "has risen" has been chosen to underline that Christ's resurrection affects up to the present the existence of believers: We can translate it as "has risen and continues to be alive" in the Eucharist and in the Church. Thus all the Scriptures attest to the death and resurrection of Christ, because -- as Hugh of Saint Victor wrote -- "the whole of divine Scripture constitutes only one book, and this book is Christ, because the whole of Scripture speaks of Christ and finds its fulfillment in Christ" (De Arca Noe, 2, 8). If St. Ambrose of Milan can say that "in Scripture we read Christ," it is because the Church of the origins has reread all Israel's Scriptures starting from and returning to Christ.

The enumeration of the Risen One's apparitions to Cephas, to the Twelve, to more than 500 brethren, and to James closes with the reference to the personal apparition received by Paul on the road to Damascus: "Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me" (1 Corinthians 15:8). Because he had persecuted the Church of God, he expresses in this confession his unworthiness to be considered an apostle, at the same level as those who preceded him: but God's grace has not been in vain in him (1 Corinthians 15:10). Hence, the boastful affirmation of divine grace unites Paul with the first witnesses of Christ's resurrection. "Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you have believed" (1 Corinthians 15:11). The identity and unity of the proclamation of the Gospel is important: both they and I preach the same faith, the same Gospel of Jesus Christ dead and risen who gives himself in the most holy Eucharist.

The importance that he bestows on the living Tradition of the Church, which she transmits to her communities, demonstrates how mistaken is the view of those who attribute to Paul the invention of Christianity: Before proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ, he encountered him on the road to Damascus, and met him in the Church, observing his life in the Twelve, and in those who had followed him on the roads of Galilee. In the next catecheses we will have the opportunity to go more profoundly into the contributions that Paul has made to the Church of the origins; however, the mission received on the part of the Risen One in order to evangelize the Gentiles must be confirmed and guaranteed by those who gave him and Barnabas their right hand, in sign of approval of their apostolate and evangelization, and of acceptance in the one communion of the Church of Christ (cf. Galatians 2:9).

We understand, therefore, that the expression -- "[f]rom now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once regarded Christ from a human point of view, we regard him thus no longer" (2 Corinthians 5:16) -- does not mean that his earthly life has little relevance for our maturing in the faith, but that from the moment of the Resurrection, our way of relating to him changes. He is, at the same time, the Son of God, "who was descended from David according to the flesh and designated Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead," as St. Paul recalls at the beginning of the Letter to the Romans (1:3-4).

The more we try to follow in the footsteps of Jesus of Nazareth on the roads of Galilee, so much the more will we understand that he has taken charge of our humanity, sharing in everything except sin. Our faith is not born from a myth or an idea, but from an encounter with the Risen One, in the life of the Church.

[Translation by ZENIT]

[At the end of the audience, Benedict XVI greeted pilgrims in several languages. In English, he said:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In today's catechesis we turn again to the life of Saint Paul and consider his relationship with the Twelve Apostles. In his letter to the Galatians, Paul speaks of his visits to Jerusalem where he consulted Peter, James and John, reputed to be the "pillars" of the Church. Paul's mission to the Gentiles needed to be confirmed and guaranteed by those who had been disciples of Jesus during his earthly life, and they offered to him and to Barnabas the right hand of fellowship. Paul passed on the living tradition that he had received: the words of Jesus at the Last Supper, his death and resurrection, and his appearances to Peter and to the Twelve. Paul emphasizes that Jesus died "for our sins", he offered himself to the Father in order to deliver us from sin and death. And now that Jesus has risen from the dead, he is living in his Church and in the Eucharist, where we continue to encounter him. Just as Paul's teaching is rooted in his experience on the road to Damascus, and in his knowledge of Christ acquired through the Church, so too our faith is grounded, not on myths or pious legends, but on the words and deeds of Jesus of Nazareth, and on our encounter with the risen Lord, present in the life of his Church.

I offer a warm welcome to all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors here today, including the choir from New Zealand and the groups from Britain and Ireland, Scandinavia, Africa, Australia and the Far East. I greet in particular the new students from the Venerable English College and the priests from Ireland who are taking part in a renewal course. May your pilgrimage renew your faith in Christ present in his Church, after the example of the Apostle Saint Paul. May God bless you all!

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On Paul's Dealings With Peter
"Only Sincere Dialogue Could Guide the Path of the Church"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 1, 2008 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered during today's general audience in St. Peter's Square.
The Holy Father continued today the cycle of catecheses dedicated to the figure and thought of St. Paul.

* * *

Dear brothers and sisters,

The respect and veneration for the Twelve, which Paul had always cultivated, did not diminish when he frankly defended the truth of the Gospel, which is nothing other than Jesus Christ, the Lord. Today, we wish to pause on two episodes that show this veneration, and at the same time, the freedom with which the Apostle addressed Cephas and the other apostles: the so-called Council of Jerusalem and the incident in Antioch of Syria, related in the Letter to the Galatians (cf. 2:1-10; 2:11-14).

Every council and synod in the Church is an "event of the Spirit" and gathers together the solicitudes of the whole People of God. Those who participated in the Second Vatican Council experienced this in first person. Because of this, St. Luke, in informing us about the first council of the Church, which took place in Jerusalem, introduces in this way the letter the apostles sent in this circumstance to the Christian communities of the diaspora: "It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us" (Acts 15:28). The Spirit, who works in the whole Church, guides the apostles by the hand in the hour of taking on new paths or fulfilling their projects. He is the principal artisan of the building up of the Church.

Nevertheless, the assembly in Jerusalem took place in a moment of not little tension within the community of the origins. It regarded responding to the question of whether it was opportune to demand circumcision of the pagans who were converting to Jesus Christ, the Lord, or whether it was licit to leave them free of the Mosaic law, that is, free from the observation of the necessary norms for being a just man, obedient to the law, and above all, free of the norms relating to the purification rituals, pure and impure foods, and the Sabbath.

St. Paul in Galatians 2: 1-10 also refers to the assembly in Jerusalem: Fourteen years after his encounter with the Risen One in Damascus -- we are in the second half of the decade of the 40s -- Paul leaves for Antioch of Syria with Barnabas, and also accompanied by Titus, his faithful coworker who, though of Greek origin, had not been obligated to be circumcised when he joined the Church. On this occasion, Paul presents to the Twelve, defined as those of repute, his gospel of freedom from the law (cf. Galatians 2:6).

In light of his encounter with the risen Christ, he had understood that in the moment of passing to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, circumcision was no longer necessary for the pagans, nor the laws regarding food and regarding the Sabbath, as a sign of justice: Christ is our justice and "just" is all that which conforms to him. Other signs are not necessary in order to be just. In the Letter to the Galatians, he refers, with few words, to the development of the assembly: He enthusiastically recalls that the gospel of liberty from the law was approved by James, Cephas and John, "the pillars," who offered to him and to Barnabas the right hand in sign of ecclesial communion in Christ (Galatians 2:9).

As we have noted, if for Luke the Council of Jerusalem expresses the action of the Holy Spirit, for Paul it represents the recognition of the liberty shared among all those who participated in it: liberty from the obligations deriving from circumcision and the law; this liberty for which "for freedom, Christ has set us free" and let us not submit again to the yoke of slavery (cf. Galatians 5:1). The two forms with which Paul and Luke describe the Assembly of Jerusalem are united in the liberating action of the Holy Spirit, because "where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom," he would say in the Second Letter to the Corinthians (cf. 3:17).

For all that, as clearly appears in St. Paul's letters, Christian liberty is never identified with license or with the freewill to do what one wants. It is carried out in conformity with Christ, and therefore, in the authentic service of man, above all, of the most needy. Because of this, Paul's report of the assembly closed by recalling the recommendation the apostles gave him: "Only, we were to be mindful of the poor, which is the very thing I was eager to do" (Galatians 2:10).

Every council is born from the Church and returns to the Church: On that occasion it returned with the attention to the poor, which from Paul's various notes in his letters, are above all those of the Church of Jerusalem. In the concern for the poor, particularly testified to in the Second Letter to the Corinthians (cf. 8-9) and in the conclusion of the Letter to the Romans (cf. 15), Paul shows his fidelity to the decisions that matured during the assembly.

Perhaps we are not yet able to fully understand the meaning Paul and his communities gave to the collection for the poor of Jerusalem. It was a totally new initiative in the panorama of religious activities. It was not obligatory, but free and spontaneous. All of the Churches founded by Paul in the West participated. The collection expressed the debt of these communities to the mother Church of Palestine, from which they had received the ineffable gift of the Gospel. The value that Paul attributes to this gesture of participation is so great that he rarely calls it a "collection": It is rather "service," "blessing," "love," "grace," even "liturgy" (2 Corinthians 9).

This last term, in particular, is surprising; it confers on the collection of money a value even of veneration: On one hand, it is a liturgical gesture or "service," offered by each community to God, and on the other, it is an action of love carried out in favor of the people. Love for the poor and divine liturgy go together; love for the poor is liturgy. These two horizons are present in every liturgy celebrated and lived in the Church, which by its nature opposes a separation between worship and life, between faith and works, between prayer and charity toward the brothers. Thus the Council of Jerusalem is born to resolve the question of how to behave with the pagans who arrived to the faith, choosing freedom from circumcision and the observances imposed by the law, and it ends with the pastoral solicitude that places at the center faith in Christ Jesus and love for the poor of Jerusalem and the whole Church.

The second episode is the well known incident in Antioch, in Syria, which allows us to understand the interior liberty that Paul enjoyed. How should one behave on the occasions of communion at the table between believers of Jewish origin and those of Gentile background? Here is revealed the other epicenter of the Mosaic observance: the distinction between pure and impure foods, which deeply divided the observant Hebrews from the pagans. Initially, Cephas, Peter, shared the table with both, but with the arrival of some Christians linked to James, "the brother of the Lord" (Galatians 1:19), Peter had begun to avoid contact at the table with pagans, so as not to scandalize those who continued observing the rules regarding food purity. And this choice was shared by Barnabas. That choice deeply divided the Christians come from circumcision and those come from paganism.

This behavior, which truly threatened the unity and liberty of the Church, brought a fiery reaction from Paul, who arrived to the point of accusing Peter and the rest of hypocrisy. "If you, though a Jew, are living like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?" (Galatians 2:14). In reality, the concerns of Paul, on one hand, and Peter and Barnabas on the other, were different: For the latter, the separation of the pagans represented a way to teach and avoid scandalizing the believers coming from Judaism. For Paul, it constituted, on the other hand, the danger of a misunderstanding of the universal salvation in Christ offered as much to the pagans as to the Jews. If justification was brought about only in virtue of faith in Christ, of conformity with him, without any work of the law, then what sense was there in still observing the [rules on] purity of food when participating at the table? Very probably the perspectives of Peter and Paul were different: for the first, not losing the Jews who had embraced the Gospel, for the second, not diminishing the salvific value of the death of Christ for all believers.

It is interesting to note, but writing to the Christians of Rome a few years later, (around the middle of the decade of the 50s), Paul will find himself before a similar situation and he will ask the strong that they not eat impure food so as not to lose the weak or cause scandal for them. "It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble" (Romans 14:21). The incident in Antioch showed itself to be a lesson both for Peter and for Paul. Only sincere dialogue, open to the truth of the Gospel, could guide the path of the Church: "For the kingdom of God is not a matter of food and drink, but of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit" (Romans 14:17).

It is a lesson that we should also learn: With the distinct charisms entrusted to Peter and Paul, let us all be guided by the Spirit, trying to live in the liberty that finds its orientation in faith in Christ and is made tangible in service to our brothers. It is essential to be ever more conformed to Christ. It is in this way that one is truly free, in this way the deepest nucleus of the law is expressed in us: the love of God and neighbor. Let us ask the Lord to teach us to share his sentiments, to learn from him the true liberty and evangelical love that embraces every human being.

[Translation by ZENIT]

[The Pope then greeted the people in several languages. In English, he said:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In our continuing catechesis on Saint Paul, we now consider two events which illustrate Paul’s relationship to the Twelve, which combined respect for their authority with frankness in the service of the Gospel. At the Council of Jerusalem Paul defended before the Twelve his conviction that the grace of Christ had freed the Gentiles from the obligations of the Mosaic Law. Significantly, the Church’s decision in this matter of faith was accompanied by a gesture of concrete concern for the needs of the poor (cf. Gal 2:10). By endorsing Paul’s collections among the Gentiles, the Council thus set its teaching on Christian freedom within the context of the Church’s communion in charity. Later, in Antioch, when Peter, to avoid scandalizing Jewish Christians, abstained from eating with the Gentiles, Paul rebuked him for compromising the freedom brought by Christ (cf. Gal 2:11-14). Yet, writing to the Romans years later, Paul himself insisted that our freedom in Christ must not become a source of scandal for others (cf. Rom 14:21). Paul’s example shows us that, led by the Spirit and within the communion of the Church, Christians are called to live in a freedom which finds its highest expression in service to others.

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On How St. Paul Knew Christ
"Jesus Lives Now and Speaks With Us Now"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 8, 2008 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered during today's general audience in St. Peter's Square.

The Holy Father continued today the cycle of catecheses dedicated to the figure and thought of St. Paul.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In the previous catecheses on St. Paul, I spoke of his encounter with the Risen Christ, which fundamentally changed his life, and then of his relationship with the Twelve Apostles called by Jesus, particularly with Sts. James, Peter and John, and of his relationship with the Church of Jerusalem.

The question that now remains is what St. Paul knew of the earthly Jesus: of his life, his teachings, his passion. Before entering into this question it could be useful to have in mind that Paul himself distinguished two ways of knowing Jesus and, in general, two ways of knowing a person.

He writes in the Second Letter to the Corinthians: "Consequently, from now on we regard no one according to the flesh; even if we once knew Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know him so no longer” (5:16). To know "according to the flesh," in a corporeal way, means to know only from the outside, with external criteria: one can see a person many times, recognize the individual's facial characteristics and the many details of how he acts: how he talks, moves, etc. Yet, even knowing someone in this way, one does not really know the person, one doesn't know the nucleus of the person. Only with the heart is one able to truly know a person.

In fact the Pharisees, the Sadducees, knew Christ from the outside, they heard his teachings, and knew many details of him, but they did not know him in his truth. There is an analogous distinction in the words of Jesus. After the Transfiguration, he asked the apostles: "Who do people say I am?" And, "Who do you say that I am?" The people know him, but superficially; they know many things about him, but they do not really know him. On the other hand, thanks to their friendship, and the role of their hearts, the Twelve at least substantially understood and began to learn more of who Christ really was.

This distinctive manner of knowing also exists today: There are learned individuals who know many details of Christ, and simple people who don't know these details, but they know Christ in his truth: "The heart speaks to the heart." And Paul essentially says that he knows Jesus in this way, with the heart, and that he knows essentially the person in his truth; and then afterward, he knows the details.

Having said this, the question remains: What did Paul know about the life, words, passion and miracles of Jesus? It seems he never met Christ during his early life. Surely he learned the details of Christ's earthly life from the apostles and the nascent Church. In his letters we find three forms of reference to the pre-Easter Jesus. First, there are explicit and direct references. Paul spoke of the Davidic lineage of Jesus (cf. Romans 1:3), he knew of the existence of his "brothers" or blood relatives (1 Corinthians 9:5; Galatians 1:19), he knew of the development of the Last Supper (cf 1 Corinthians 11:23). He know other phrases of Jesus, for example on the indissolubility of marriage (cf 1 Corinthians 7:10 with Mark 10:11-12), on the need that those who announce the Gospel be sustained by the community as the worker deserves his wage (cf 1 Corinthians 9:14 with Luke 10:7). Paul knew the words Jesus spoke at the Last Supper (cf 1 Corinthians 11:24-25 with Luke 22:19-20), and he also knew the cross of Jesus. These are direct references to the words and facts of the life of Jesus.

Second, we can see in some phrases of the Pauline letters various allusions to the confirmed tradition in the synoptic Gospels. For example, the words we read in 1 Thessalonians, according to which "the day of the Lord will come like a thief at night” (5:2), cannot be explained by referring to the Old Testament prophecies, because the metaphor of the thief at night is only found in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, hence taken from the synoptic tradition. And when one reads that God "chose the foolish of the world" (1 Corinthians 1:27-28), one notes the faithful echo of the teachings of Jesus on the simple and the poor (cf Matthew 5:3; 11:25; 19:30). There are also the words of Jesus in the messianic Jubilee: “I give you praise, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike.” Paul knows -- from his missionary experience -- that these words are true, those who are childlike are the ones who have their hearts open to knowledge of Christ. Also, the mention of the obedience of Jesus "to death" that is found in Philippians 2:8 can't but point to the total willingness of the earthly Christ to fulfill the will of the Father (cf Mark 3:35; Jn 4:34).

Paul therefore knew the passion of Christ, his cross, and the way in which he lived the last moments of his life. The cross of Jesus and the tradition regarding the fact of the cross is at the center of the Pauline Kerygma. Another pillar of the life of Jesus that Paul knew was the Sermon on the Mount, some elements of which he cites almost literally when he writes to the Romans: "Love one another. ... Blessed are the persecuted. ... Live in peace with all. ... Overcome evil with good." In his letters there is a faithful expression of the Sermon on the Mount (cf Matthew 5-7).

Finally, it is possible to find a third way that the words of Jesus are in the letters of Paul: It is when he transposed the pre-Easter tradition to the post-Easter period. A typical example is the theme of the Kingdom of God. This is certainly at the center of the preaching of the historical Christ (cf Matthew 3:2; Mark 1:15; Luke 4:43). In Paul the transposition of this theme is revealed, for after the resurrection it is evident that Jesus, the Resurrected One, is the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom, then, is where Jesus is. And then necessarily the theme of the Kingdom of God, in which the mystery of Christ had been anticipated, is transformed into Christology.

Jesus' own instructions for entering the Kingdom of God are valid for Paul in regard to the justification by faith: Both require an attitude of great humility and availability, free of presumptions, to receive the grace of God. For example, the parable of the Pharisee and the publican (cf Luke 18:9-14) teaches exactly what St. Paul discusses when he insists that nobody should glorify themselves in the presence of God. Also, the teaching of Jesus on the publicans and the prostitutes, who are more willing than the Pharisees to receive the Gospel (cf Matthew 21:31; Luke 7:36-50), and his decisions to share a table with them (cf Matthew 9:10-13; Luke 15:1-2), are found in the doctrine of Paul on the mysterious love of God toward sinners (cf Romans 5:8-10 and Ephesians 2:3-5). In this way the theme of the Kingdom of God is proposed in a new manner, but always faithful to the tradition of the historic Jesus.

Another example of the faithful transposition of the doctrinal nucleus of Jesus is found in the "titles" that refer to him. Before Easter, Christ called himself "Son of Man"; after Easter it is evident that the Son of Man is also the Son of God. Therefore, the preferred title of Paul for Jesus is "Kyrios" -- Lord (cf Phillipians 9:11) -- that indicates the divinity of Jesus. With this title the Lord Jesus appears in the full light of his resurrection.

On the Mount of Olives, in the moment of Jesus' extreme anguish (cf Mark 14:36), the disciples, before going to sleep, heard how Jesus spoke with the Father and called him "Abba -- Father.” This is a very informal word, equal to "daddy," used only by children for their father. Until that moment it was unthinkable that a Hebrew use a word such as that to address God; but Jesus, being truly a son, talked in this way during this hour of intimacy and said "Abba, Father."

In the letters of St. Paul to the Romans and Galatians, surprisingly, this word "Abba," which expresses the exclusivity of the sonship of Jesus, appears in the mouths of the baptized (cf Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:6). They have received the "Spirit of the Son" and now carry in themselves this Spirit, and they can talk as Jesus and with Jesus as true sons of the Father. They can say "Abba" because they have been converted into sons and daughters in the Son.

And finally, I would like to point out the salvific dimension of the death of Jesus, as we find in the Gospel in which "the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45; Matthew 20:28). The faithful expression of this phrase of Jesus appears in the Pauline doctrine on the death of Jesus as a rescue (cf 1 Corinthians 6:20), as redemption (cf Romans 3:24), as liberation (cf Galatians 5:1) and as reconciliation (cf Romans 5:10; 2 Corinthians 5:18-20). Here is the center of Pauline theology, which is based in this phrase of Jesus.

In conclusion, St. Paul did not think Jesus was something historical, as a person from the past. He certainly knew the great tradition regarding his life, his words, his death and his resurrection, but he did not treat them as something from the past; he proposed them as the reality of the living Jesus. The words and actions of Jesus for Paul do not pertain to a historic time, to the past. Jesus lives now and speaks with us now, and lives for us. This is the true manner to get to know Jesus, and to learn the tradition of him. We should also learn to know Jesus, not physically, as a person of the past, but as our Lord and brother, that today is with us and shows us how to live and how to die.

[Translation by Karna Swanson]

[The Pope then greeted the people in several languages. In English, he said:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In our continuing catechesis on Saint Paul, we now consider Paul’s relationship to the so-called "historical" Jesus. In a celebrated passage Paul states that "even though we once knew Christ according to the flesh, we no longer know him in that way" (2 Cor 5:16). Here the Apostle does not claim that he knew Jesus during his earthly ministry, but rather that he once considered Jesus from a merely human standpoint. Significantly, Paul’s knowledge of Christ came from the preaching of the early Church. Both his initial rejection of Jesus and -- after his conversion on the road to Damascus -- his preaching of the glorified Christ were based on the Gospel as proclaimed by the first Christian community. In his Letters, Paul refers explicitly to the facts of Jesus’ earthly life, as well as to his teaching. His Letters also reflect many central themes and images drawn from the preaching of Jesus. Paul’s teaching on the Jesus’ identity as the Son of the Father, in whom we receive redemption and adoptive sonship, is clearly derived from the Lord’s own experience and teaching. In a word, Paul’s knowledge of Jesus and his proclamation of the risen Lord as God’s Son and our Saviour, was grounded in the life and preaching of Jesus himself.

I warmly greet all the English-speaking pilgrims, and in a special way, diaconal candidates from the Pontifical North American College with their families: may the grace of Holy Orders enliven you to preach the Gospel of Christ with conviction and love! I also welcome pilgrims from the Diocese of Hamilton, members of Christ Teens Malaysia, ecumenical pilgrims from Norway, as well as visitors from Indonesia, China, Japan, Australia, Sweden, England, Scotland, Ireland, and the Netherlands. God bless you all!

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St. Paul's Teaching on the Church
"We Are the Temple of God in the World"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 15, 2008 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered during today's general audience in St. Peter's Square.
The Holy Father continued today the cycle of catecheses dedicated to the figure and thought of St. Paul.

* * *

Dear brothers and sisters:

In last Wednesday's catechesis, I spoke of Paul's relationship with the pre-Easter Jesus in his earthly life. The question was: "What did Paul know of the life of Jesus, his words, his passion?"

Today, I would like to speak of the teaching of St. Paul on the Church. We should begin by noting that this word -- "iglesia" in Spanish, like "église" in French or "chiesa" in Italian -- is taken from the Greek "ekkle-sía." It comes from the Old Testament and means the assembly of the people of Israel, gathered by God, and particularly the model assembly at the foot of Sinai.

Now this word alludes to the new community of believers in Christ who know themselves to be the assembly of God, the new gathering of all peoples by God and before him. The term "ekkle-sía" only appears in the writings of Paul, who is the first author of a Christian writing. This happens in the "incipit" of the first Letter to the Thessalonians, where Paul addresses himself textually to "the Church of the Thessalonians" (cf. later as well the [address to the] "Church of the Laodiceans in Colossians 4:16).

In other letters he speaks of the Church of God that is at Corinth (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:2 and 2 Corinthians 1:1), that is at Galatia (Galatians 1:2, etc). -- particular Churches, therefore -- but he recounts also having persecuted "the Church of God," not one particular local community, but the "Church of God." Thus we see that this word "Church" has a multifaceted meaning: It indicates on one hand the assemblies of God in particular places (a city, a country, a house), but it also means all of the Church taken together. And thus we see that "the Church of God" is not just the sum of the particular local Churches, but that these are at the same time the actualization of the one Church of God. All together they are the "Church of God," which precedes each local Church and which is expressed and actualized in them.

It is important to observe that nearly always the word "Church" appears with the added descriptor "of God": It is not a human association, born from ideas or common interests, but a gathering of God. He has gathered it together and because of this it is one in all of its actualizations. The unity of God creates the unity of the Church in all of the places where it is found. Later, in the Letter to the Ephesians, Paul abundantly elaborates the concept of the unity of the Church, in continuation with the concept of the people of God, Israel, considered by the prophets as the "spouse of God," called to live a spousal relationship with him. Paul presents the only Church of God as "spouse of Christ" in love, one spirit with Christ himself.

It is known that the young Paul had been an ardent adversary of the new movement constituted by the Church of Christ. He had been its adversary, because he had seen threatened in this new movement the fidelity to the tradition of the people of God, animated by faith in the one God. This fidelity was expressed above all in circumcision, in the observance of the norms of cultural purity, in abstaining from certain foods, in respect for the Sabbath.

The Israelites paid for this fidelity with their blood during the time of the Maccabees, when the Greek regime wanted to force all peoples to take on a sole Greek culture. Many of the Israelites had defended with their blood the vocation proper to Israel. The martyrs had paid with their lives for the identity of their people, expressed through these elements.

After his encounter with the risen Christ, Paul understood that the Christians weren't traitors; on the contrary, in the new situation, the God of Israel, through Christ, had extended his call to all people, becoming the God of all peoples. In this way, fidelity to the only God was fulfilled; the distinctive signs made up of particular norms and observances were no longer necessary, because all were called, in their differences, to form part of the one people of God in the "Church of God," in Christ.

One thing was immediately clear to Paul in the new situation: the fundamental and foundational value of Christ and the "word" he proclaimed. Paul knew that not only is one not a Christian by coercion, but that rather in the internal configuration of the new community, the institutionally component was inevitably linked to the "living word," the proclamation of the living Christ in which God opens himself to all peoples and unites them in the one people of God. It is significant that Luke, in the Acts of the Apostles, uses many times, even because of Paul, the phrase "proclaim the word" (Acts 4:29,31; 8:25; 11:19; 13:46; 14:25; 16:6,32), with the evident intention of showing to the maximum the decisive reach of the "word" of the proclamation.

Concretely, this word is made up of the cross and resurrection of Christ, in which the Scriptures have been fulfilled. The paschal mystery, announced in the word, is fulfilled in the sacraments of baptism and Eucharist, and materializes in Christian charity. The evangelizing work of Paul does not have any other goal than to firmly establish the community of the believers in Christ. This idea is within the same etymology of the term "ekkle-sía," which Paul, and with him all of Christianity, prefers to the other term "synagogue," not only because originally the first is more "lay" -- deriving from the Greek praxis of the political assembly and not properly religious -- but also because it directly implies the more theological idea of a call "ab extra," not only a simple meeting. The believers are called by God, who gathers them in a community, his Church.

Along this line, we can also understand the original concept, exclusively Pauline, of the Church as "Body of Christ." In this respect, it is fitting to keep in mind the two dimension of this concept. One is of a sociological character, according to which the body is formed by its components and wouldn't exist without them. This interpretation appears in the Letter to the Romans and the First Letter to the Corinthians, where Paul takes up an image that already existed in Roman sociology. He says that a people is like a body with distinct members, each one of which has its function, but all, even the smallest and apparently insignificant, are necessary so the body can live and perform its functions. Opportunely, the Apostle observes that in the Church there are many vocations: prophets, apostles, teachers, simple peoples, all called to live charity each day, all necessary for constructing the living unity of this spiritual organism.

The other interpretation makes reference to the very Body of Christ. Paul sustains that the Church is not just an organism, but rather becomes truly the Body of Christ in the sacrament of the Eucharist, where all receive his Body and truly become his Body. Thus is fulfilled the spousal mystery, that all are one body and one spirit in Christ. Hence the reality goes much beyond the sociological imagination, expressing its true, profound essence, that is, the unity of all the baptized in Christ, considered by the Apostle, "one" in Christ, conformed to the sacrament of his Body.

Saying this, Paul shows he knows well and he brings us to understand that the Church is not his and is not ours: the Church is the body of Christ, it is "Church of God, " "field of God," construction of God … "temple of God" (1 Corinthians 3:9,16). This last designation is particularly interesting, because it attributes to an interweaving of interpersonal relationships a term that was commonly used to indicate a physical place, considered sacred. The relationship between Church and temple assumes therefore two complementary dimensions: On one hand, the characteristic of separation and purity, which the sacred building had, is applied to the ecclesial community; on the other hand, the concept of a material space is surpassed, to transfer this value to the reality of a living community of faith. If before, temples were considered places of the presence of God, now it is known and seen that God does not dwell in buildings made of stone, but that the place of the presence of God is in the world of the living community of the believers.

One separate discourse would merit the qualification of "people of God," which in Paul is applied substantially to the people of the Old Testament and afterward to the pagans, that were "no people" and that have become also the people of God thanks to their insertion in Christ through the word and the sacrament.

And a last sketch: In the Letter to Timothy, Paul qualifies the Church as "house of God" (1 Timothy 3:15); and this is a truly original definition, because it refers to the Church as a community structure in which warm interpersonal relationships of a familial character are lived. The Apostle helps us to understand ever better the mystery of the Church in its distinct dimensions of assembly of God in the world.

This is the greatness of the Church and the greatness of our call: We are the temple of God in the world, the place where God truly dwells, and we are, at the same time, community, family of God, who is love. As family and house of God we should carry out in the world the charity of God and thus be, with the strength that comes from faith, the place and sign of his presence. Let us pray to the Lord so that he grants us to be ever more his Church, his Body, the place of the presence of his charity in this our world and in our history.

[The Pope then greeted the people in several languages. In English, he said:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In our continuing catechesis on Saint Paul, we now consider his teaching on the Church. It was "the Church of God" which Paul persecuted before his conversion, and throughout his Letters he uses the term "Church" both with reference to local Christian communities and to the Church as a whole. For Paul, faith in the person of Jesus Christ and his Gospel is at the heart of the Church. Paul’s entire work of evangelization, centred on the proclamation of the Paschal mystery of the Lord’s death and resurrection, was aimed at establishing new communities of those who believe in the Lord and share in the life of the Spirit. The Church thus takes shape as an "ekklesía", a concrete assembly called into being by God’s word. For Paul, the Church is also the "Body of Christ", a living body endowed with a complex of ministries which are spiritual in their origin and purpose. In the variety and the theological richness of his teaching on the Church, Paul invites us to understand and love the Church ever more deeply, and to work for her upbuilding in faith and charity.

© Copyright 2008 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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On Paul's Christology
"The Radical Humility of Christ Is the Expression of Divine Love"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 22, 2008 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered during today's general audience in St. Peter's Square.

The Holy Father continued today the cycle of catecheses dedicated to the figure and thought of St. Paul.

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Dear brothers and sisters:

In the catecheses from previous weeks, we have meditated on the "conversion" of St. Paul, fruit of a personal encounter with the crucified and risen Christ, and we have asked ourselves about the reaction of the Apostle to the Gentiles to the earthly Jesus. Today I would like to speak of the teaching St. Paul left us about the centrality of the risen Christ in the mystery of salvation, about his Christology.

In reality, the risen Jesus Christ, "exalted above every name," is at the center of all his reflections. Christ is for the Apostle the standard to evaluate events and things, the purpose of every effort that he makes to announce the Gospel, the great passion that sustains his steps along the paths of the world. And he is a living Christ, concrete: The Christ, Paul says, "who loved me and gave himself up for me" (Galatians 2:20). This person who loves me, with whom I can speak, who listens and responds to me, this is really the principle for understanding the world and for finding the way in history.

Anyone who has read the writings of St. Paul knows well that he does not concern himself with narrating the events that made up the life of Christ, even though we can imagine that in his catecheses, he recounted much more about the pre-Easter Jesus than what he wrote in his letters, which are admonitions for concrete situations. His pastoral and theological work was so directed toward the edification of the nascent communities, that it was natural for him to concentrate everything on the announcement of Jesus Christ as "Lord," alive today and present among his own.

Here we see the essentiality that is characteristic of Pauline Christology, which develops the depths of the mystery with a constant and precise concern: To announce, with certainty, Jesus and his teaching, but to announce above all the central reality of his death and resurrection as the culmination of his earthly existence and the root of the successive development of the whole Christian faith, of the whole reality of the Church.

For the Apostle, the Resurrection is not an event in itself that is separated from the Death. The risen One is the same One who was crucified. The risen One also had his wounds: The Passion is present in him and it can be said with Pascal that he is suffering until the end of the world, though being the risen One and living with us and for us. Paul had understood on the road to Damascus this identification of the risen One with Christ crucified: In that moment, it was revealed with clarity that the Crucified is the risen One and the risen One is the Crucified, who says to Paul, "Why do you persecute me?" (Acts 9:4). Paul was persecuting Christ in the Church and then understood that the cross is "a curse of God" (Deuteronomy 21:23), but a sacrifice for our redemption.

The Apostle contemplates with fascination the hidden secret of the crucified-risen One, and through the sufferings endured by Christ in his humanity (earthly dimension) arrives to this eternal existence in which he is one with the Father (pre-temporal dimension): "But when the fullness of time had come," he writes, "God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to ransom those under the law, so that we might receive adoption" (Galatians 4:4-5).

These two dimensions -- the eternal pre-existence with the Father and the descent of the Lord in the incarnation -- are already announced in the Old Testament, in the figure of Wisdom. We find in the wisdom literature of the Old Testament certain texts that exalt the role of Wisdom pre-existent to the creation of the world. In this sense, you can see passages such as Psalm 90: "Before the mountains were born, the earth and the world brought forth, from eternity to eternity you are God" (verse 2). Or passages such as those that speak of creating Wisdom: "The Lord begot me, the firstborn of his ways, the forerunner of his prodigies of long ago; From of old I was poured forth, at the first, before the earth" (Proverbs 8:22-23). Indicative as well is the praise of Wisdom, contained in the book by that name: "Indeed, she reaches from end to end mightily and governs all things well" (Wisdom 8:1).

The same wisdom texts that speak of the eternal pre-existence of Wisdom also speak of its descent, of the abasement of this Wisdom, which has made for itself a tent among men. Thus we can already feel resonate the words from the Gospel of John that speak of the tent of the flesh of the Lord. A tent was created in the Old Testament: Here is indicated the temple, worship according to the "Torah"; but from the point of view of the New Testament, we can understand that this was only a pre-figuration of the much more real and significant tent: the tent of the flesh of Christ.

And we already see in the books of the Old Testament that this abasement of Wisdom, its descent into flesh, also implies the possibility of being rejected. St. Paul, developing his Christology, refers precisely to this wisdom perspective: He recognizes in Jesus the eternal Wisdom existing from all time, the Wisdom that descends and creates a tent among us, and thus he can describe Christ as "the power of God and the wisdom of God." He can say that Christ has become for us "wisdom from God, as well as righteousness, sanctification, and redemption" (1 Corinthians 1:24, 30). In the same way, Paul clarifies that Christ, like Wisdom, can be rejected above all by the rulers of this age (cf. 1 Corinthians 2:6-9), such that in the plans of God a paradoxical situation is created: the cross, which will become the path of salvation for the whole human race.

A later development to this wisdom cycle, which sees Wisdom abase itself so as to be later exalted despite rejection, is found in the famous hymn in the Letter to the Philippians (cf. 2:6-11). This involves one of the most elevated texts of the New Testament. Exegetes mainly concur in considering that this pericope was composed prior to the text of the Letter to the Philippians. This is an important piece of information, because it means that Judeo-Christianity, before St. Paul, believed in the divinity of Jesus. In other words, faith in the divinity of Christ is not a Hellenistic invention, arising after the earthly life of Christ, an invention that, forgetting his humanity, had divinized him. We see in reality that the early Judeo-Christianity believed in the divinity of Jesus. Moreover, we can say that the apostles themselves, in the great moments of the life of the Master, had understood that he was the Son of God, as St. Peter says at Caesarea Philippi: "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God" (Matthew 16:16).

But let us return to the hymn from the Letter to the Philippians. The structure of this text can be articulated in three stanzas, which illustrate the principle moments of the journey undertaken by Christ. His pre-existence is expressed with the words: "though he was in the form of God, [he] did not regard equality with God something to be grasped" (verse 6). Afterward follows the voluntary abasement of the Son in the second stanza: "he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave" (verse 7) "he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross" (verse 8). The third stanza of the hymn announces the response of the Father to the humiliation of the Son: "Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name" (verse 9).

What is impressive is the contrast between the radical abasement and the resulting glorification in the glory of God. It is evident that this second stanza contrasts with the pretension of Adam, who wanted to make himself God, and it contrasts as well with the actions of the builders of the Tower of Babel, who wanted to construct for themselves a bridge to heaven and make themselves divine. But this initiative of pride ended with self-destruction: In this way, one doesn't arrive to heaven, to true happiness, to God. The gesture of the Son of God is exactly the contrary: not pride, but humility, which is the fulfillment of love, and love is divine. The initiative of abasement, of the radical humility of Christ, which contrasts with human pride, is really the expression of divine love; from it follows this elevation to heaven to which God attracts us with his love.

Besides the Letter to the Philippians, there are other places in Pauline literature where the themes of the pre-existence and the descent of the Son of God to earth are united. A reaffirmation of the assimilation between Wisdom and Christ, with all its cosmic and anthropological consequences, is found in the First Letter to Timothy: "[He] was manifested in the flesh, vindicated in the spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed to the Gentiles, believed in throughout the world, taken up in glory" (3:16). It is above all based on these premises that the function of Christ as mediator could be better defined, within the framework of the only God of the Old Testament (cf. 1 Timothy 2:5 in relation to Isaiah 43:10-11; 44:6). Christ is the true bridge who leads us to heaven, to communion with God.

And finally, just a point regarding the last developments of the Christology of St. Paul in the Letters to the Colossians and the Ephesians. In the first, Christ is designated as the "firstborn of all creation" (1:15-20). This word "firstborn" implies that the first among many children, the first among many brothers and sisters, has lowered to draw us and make us brothers and sisters. In the Letter to the Ephesians, we find the beautiful exposition of the divine plan of salvation, when Paul says that in Christ, God wanted to recapitulate all things (cf. Ephesians 1:23). Christ is the recapitulation of everything, he takes up everything and guides us to God. And thus is implied a movement of descent and ascent, inviting us to participate in his humility, that is, in his love for neighbor, so as to thus be participants in his glorification, making ourselves with him into sons in the Son. Let us pray that the Lord helps us to conform ourselves to is humility, to his love, to thus be participants in his divinization.

[After the audience, the Pope greeted the people in several languages. In English, he said:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In our continuing catechesis on Saint Paul, we now consider the centrality of Jesus Christ in his teaching. Paul preaches Christ as the crucified and glorified Lord, alive and present within the Church. He proclaims Christ’s incarnation and exaltation, but also his pre-existence with the Father before all time. His affirmation of Christ’s pre-existence evokes those Old Testament texts which portray God’s Wisdom as being with him before creation and coming down to dwell among men (e.g., Pr 8:22-23). Paul thus presents Christ as "the wisdom of God" (1 Cor 1:24), the centre and fulfilment of the Father’s eternal plan of salvation. The hymn found in his Letter to the Philippians (Phil 2:6-11) contrasts Christ’s pre-existence "in the form of God" and his subsequent "kenosis" or self-emptying, "even to death, death on a Cross". Paul also appeals to Christ’s pre-existence and incarnation in proclaiming Jesus as "the one mediator between God and man" (1 Tim 3:16), the firstborn of all creation and the head of the Church (cf. Col 1:15-20). Paul’s "sapiential" christology invites us to welcome the salvation offered by the crucified and risen Lord, the Eternal Son, who is the very wisdom and power of God.

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On St. Paul and the Cross
"The Risen One Is Always the One Who Has Been Crucified"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 29, 2008 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered during today's general audience in St. Peter's Square.

The Holy Father continued today the cycle of catecheses dedicated to the figure and thought of St. Paul.

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Dear brothers and sisters:

In the personal experience of St. Paul, there is an indisputable fact: While at the beginning he had been a persecutor of the Christians and had used violence against them, from the moment of his conversion on the road to Damascus, he changed to the side of Christ crucified, making him the reason for his life and the motive for his preaching.

His was an existence entirely consumed by souls (cf. 2 Corinthians 12:15), not in the least serene and protected from snares and difficulties. In the encounter with Jesus, he had understood the central significance of the cross: He had understood that Jesus had died and risen for all and also for [Paul], himself. Both elements were important -- the universality: Jesus had truly died for everyone; and the subjectivity: He had died also for me.

On the cross, therefore, the gratuitous and merciful love of God had been manifested. Paul experienced this love above all in himself (cf. Galatians 2:20) and from being a sinner, he converted to being a believer, from persecutor to apostle. Day after day, in his new life, he experiences that salvation is "grace," that everything descended from the love of Christ and not from his merits, which in any case, didn't exist. The "gospel of grace" thus became the only way to understand the cross, the criteria not only for his new existence, but also the answer for those who questioned him. Among these were, above all, the Jews who placed their hope in works and hoped to gain salvation from these; the Greeks as well, who opposed their human wisdom to the cross; finally, there were certain heretical groups, who had formed their own idea of Christianity according to their own model of life.

For St. Paul, the cross has a fundamental priority in the history of humanity; it represents the principal point of his theology, because to say cross means to say salvation as grace given to every creature. The theme of the cross of Christ becomes an essential and primary element in the preaching of the Apostle: The clearest example of this is regarding the community of Corinth.

Before a Church where disorders and scandals were present in a worrying way, where communion was threatened by groups and internal divisions that compromised the unity of the Body of Christ, Paul presents himself not with sublime words or wisdom, but with the announcement of Christ, of Christ crucified. His strength is not persuasive language, but rather, paradoxically, the weakness and the tremor of one who trusts only in the "power of God" (cf. 1 Corinthians 2:1-4). The cross, for everything that it represents and also for the theological message it contains, is scandal and foolishness. The Apostle affirms this with impressive strength, which is better to hear with his own words: "The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. … It was the will of God through the foolishness of the proclamation to save those who have faith. For Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles."

The first Christian communities, whom Paul addressed, knew very well that Jesus is now risen and alive; the Apostle wants to remind not just the Corinthians and the Galatians, but all of us, that the Risen One is always the One who has been crucified. The "scandal" and the "foolishness" of the cross are precisely in the fact that there, where there seems to be only failure, sorrow and defeat, precisely there, is all the power of the limitless love of God, because the cross is the expression of love and love is the true power that is revealed precisely in this apparent weakness.

For the Jews, the cross is "skandalon," that is, a trap or stumbling block: It seems to be an obstacle to the faith of the pious Israelite, who doesn't manage to find anything similar in sacred Scripture. Paul, with no small amount of courage, seems to say here that the stakes are very high: For the Jews, the cross contradicts the very essence of God, who has manifested himself with prodigious signs. Therefore, to accept the cross of Christ means to undergo a profound conversion in the way of relating with God.

If for the Jews the reason to reject the cross is found in revelation, that is, in fidelity to the God of their fathers, for the Greeks, that is, the pagans, the criteria for judgment in opposing the cross is reason. For this latter group, in fact, the cross is blight, foolishness, literally insipience, that is, food lacking salt; therefore, more than an error, it is an insult to good sense.

Paul himself on more than one occasion had the bitter experience of the rejection of the Christian pronouncement judged "insipid," irrelevant, not even worthy of being taken into consideration on the level of rational logic. For those who, like the Greeks, sought perfection in the spirit, in pure thought, it was already unacceptable that God became man, submerging himself in all the limits of space and time. Therefore it was decidedly inconceivable to believe that a God could end up on the cross! And we see how this Greek logic is also the common logic of our time.

The concept of "apátheia," indifference, as absence of passions in God: How could it have understood a God made man and defeated, who later on even had taken up again his body so as to live resurrected? "We should like to hear you on this some other time" (Acts 17:32), the Athenians scornfully told Paul, when they heard him speak of the resurrection of the dead. They believed that perfection was in liberating oneself from the body, conceived as a prison: How could it not be considered an aberration to take up again the body? In the ancient culture, there did not seem to be space for the message of God incarnate. The whole of the "Jesus of Nazareth" event seemed to be marked by the most total insipience, and certainly the cross was the most emblematic point of this.

But, why has St. Paul made precisely of this, of the word of the cross, the fundamental point of his preaching? The answer is not difficult: The cross reveals "the power of God" (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:24), which is different than human power. It reveals in fact his love: "For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength" (ibid., 1:25).

Centuries after Paul, we see that the cross, and not the wisdom that opposes the cross, has triumphed. The Crucified is wisdom, because he manifests in truth who God is, that is, the power of love that goes to the point of the cross to save man. God avails of ways and instruments that to us appear at first glance as only weakness. The Crucified reveals, on one hand, the weakness of man, and on the other, the true power of God, that is, the gratuitousness of love: Precisely this gratuitousness of love is true wisdom.

St. Paul has experienced this even in his flesh, and he gives us testimony of this in various passages of his spiritual journey, which have become essential reference points for every disciple of Jesus: "He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness'" (2 Corinthians 12:9); and even "God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something" (1 Corinthians 1:28). The Apostle identifies himself to such a degree with Christ that he also, even in the midst of so many trials, lives in the faith of the Son of God who loved him and gave himself up for his sins and those of everyone (cf. Galatians 1:4; 2:20). This autobiographical detail of the Apostle is paradigmatic for all of us.

St. Paul offered an admirable synthesis of the theology of the cross in the Second Letter to the Corinthians (5:4-21), where everything is contained in two fundamental affirmations: On one hand, Christ, whom God has treated as sin on our behalf (verse 21), has died for us (verse 14); on the other hand, God has reconciled us with himself, not attributing to us our sins (verses 18-20). By this "ministry of reconciliation" all slavery has been purchased (cf. 1 Corinthians 6:20; 7:23).

Here it is seen how all of this is relevant for our lives. We also should enter into this "ministry of reconciliation," which always implies renouncing one's own superiority and choosing the foolishness of love. St. Paul has renounced his own life, giving himself totally for the ministry of reconciliation, of the cross that is salvation for all of us. And this is what we should also know how to do: We can find our strength precisely in the humility of love and our wisdom in the weakness of renunciation to thus enter into the strength of God. We should build our lives on this true wisdom: To not live for ourselves, but to live in the faith in this God, about whom all of us can say: "He loved me and gave himself up for me."

[Translation by ZENIT]

[After his address, the Holy Father greeted the pilgrims in various languages. In English, he said:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In our continuing catechesis on Saint Paul, we now consider the central place of the Cross of Jesus Christ in his preaching. Paul’s encounter with the glorified Lord on the way to Damascus convinced him that Jesus had died and risen for him and for all. The mystery of the Cross showed him the power of God’s merciful and saving love. As Paul told the Corinthians, he came not to preach in lofty words or wisdom, but to proclaim "Jesus Christ, and him crucified" (cf. I Cor 2:2). The Cross, which seems a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, is the revelation of God’s wisdom and strength. As the supreme sign of God’s love for sinful humanity, the Cross invites us to that true wisdom which accepts the free gift of God’s merciful and saving love. On the Cross Christ gave himself up for our sins (cf. Gal 1:4), becoming a sacrifice of atonement in his own blood (cf. Rom 3:25). For Paul, faith in the crucified Lord thus calls us to crucify our own flesh with its desires, in order to share in Christ’s death and resurrection (cf. Gal 5:24). In accepting the weakness of the Cross, we experience the power of God’s love for us.

I offer a warm welcome to all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present, especially those from Britain and Ireland, Norway, Australia, Korea, Vietnam and the United States of America. I greet especially the Delegation of Papal Knights from Great Britain, and the members and benefactors of the Gregorian University Foundation of New York. Upon you and your families, I cordially invoke God’s blessings of peace and joy.

© Copyright 2008 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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On St. Paul and the Resurrection
"2 Facts Are Important: The Tomb Is Empty and Jesus Really Appeared"

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 5, 2008 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered during today's general audience in St. Peter's Square.

The Holy Father continued today the cycle of catecheses dedicated to the figure and thought of St. Paul.

* * *

Dear brothers and sisters:

"And if Christ has not been raised, then empty is our preaching; empty, too, your faith. … You are still in your sins" (1 Corinthians 15:14,17). With these heavy words of the First Letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul makes clear how decisive is the importance that he attributes to the resurrection of Jesus. In this event, in fact, is the solution to the problem that the drama of the cross implies. On its own, the cross could not explain Christian faith; on the contrary, it would be a tragedy, a sign of the absurdity of being. The Paschal mystery consists in the fact that this Crucified One "was raised on the third day, according to the Scriptures" (1 Corinthians 15:4) -- thus testifies the proto-Christian witness.

Here is the central key to Pauline Christology: Everything revolves around this gravitational center point. The whole teaching of the Apostle Paul departs from and always arrives at the mystery of the One whom the Father has risen from the dead. The Resurrection is a fundamental fact, almost a previous basic assumption (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:12), in base of which Paul can formulate his synthetic proclamation ("kerygma"): He who has been crucified, and who has thus manifested the immense love of God for man, has risen and is alive among us.

It is important to note the link between the proclamation and the Resurrection, just as Paul formulates it, and that which was used in the first pre-Pauline Christian communities. Here one can truly see the importance of the tradition that preceded the Apostle and that he, with great respect and attention, wanted in turn to convey. The text on the Resurrection, contained in Chapter 15:1-11 of the First Letter to the Corinthians, emphasizes well the nexus between "receive" and "transmit." St. Paul attributes great importance to the literal formulation of tradition; the end of the fragment we are examining highlights: "Whether it be I or they, so we preach and so you believed" (1 Corinthians 15:11), thus spotlighting the unity of the kerygma, of the proclamation for all believers and for all those who would announce the resurrection of Christ.

The tradition to which he unites is the fount from which to draw. The originality of his Christology is never in detriment to fidelity to tradition. The kerygma of the apostles always prevails over the personal re-elaboration of Paul; each one of his arguments flows from the common tradition, in which the faith shared by all the Churches, which are just one Church, is expressed.

And in this way, Paul offers a model for all times of how to do theology and how to preach. The theologian and the preacher do not create new visions of the world and of life, but rather are at the service of the truth transmitted, at the service of the real fact of Christ, of the cross, of the resurrection. Their duty is to help to understand today, behind the ancient words, the reality of "God with us," and therefore, the reality of true life.

Here it is opportune to say precisely: St. Paul, in announcing the Resurrection, does not concern himself with presenting an organic doctrinal exposition -- he does not want to practically write a theology manual -- but rather to take up the theme, responding to uncertainties and concrete questions that are posed him by the faithful. An episodic discourse, therefore, but full of faith and a lived theology. A concentration of the essential is found in him: We have been "justified," that is, made just, saved, by Christ, dead and risen, for us. The fact of the Resurrection emerges above all else, without which Christian life would simply be absurd. On that Easter morning something extraordinary and new happened, but at the same time, something very concrete, verified by very precise signs, attested by numerous witnesses.

Also for Paul, as for the other authors of the New Testament, the Resurrection is united to the testimony of those who have had a direct experience of the Risen One. It is about seeing and hearing not just with the eyes and the ears, but also with an interior light that motivates recognizing what the external senses verify as an objective datum. Paul therefore gives -- as do the four Evangelists -- fundamental relevance to the theme of the apparitions, which are a fundamental condition for faith in the Risen One who has left the tomb empty.

These two facts are important: The tomb is empty and Jesus really appeared. Thus is built this chain of tradition that, by way of the testimony of the apostles and the first disciples, would reach successive generations, up to us. The first consequence, or the first way to express this testimony, is preaching the resurrection of Christ as a synthesis of the Gospel message and as the culminating point of the salvific itinerary. All of this, Paul does on various occasions: One can consult the Letters and the Acts of the Apostles, where it can always be seen that the fundamental point for him is being a witness of the Resurrection.

I would like to cite just one text: Paul, under arrest in Jerusalem, is before the Sanhedrin as one accused. In this circumstance in which life and death are at stake, he indicates the meaning and the content of all his concern: "I am on trial for hope in the resurrection of the dead" (Acts 23:6). Paul repeats this same refrain often in his Letters (cf. 1 Thessalonians 1:9ff, 4:13-18; 5:10), in which he invokes his personal experience, his personal encounter with the resurrected Christ (cf. Galatians 1:15-16; 1 Corinthians 9:1).

But we can ask ourselves: What is, for St. Paul, the deep meaning of the event of the resurrection of Jesus? What does he say to us 2,000 years later? Is the affirmation "Christ has risen" also current for us? Why is the Resurrection for him and for us today a theme that is so determinant?

Paul solemnly responds to this question at the beginning of the Letter to the Romans, where he makes an exhortation referring to the "gospel of God … about his Son, descended from David according to the flesh, but established as Son of God in power according to the spirit of holiness through resurrection from the dead" (Romans 1:3-4).

Paul knows well and he says many times that Jesus was the Son of God always, from the moment of his incarnation. The novelty of the resurrection consists in the fact that Jesus, elevated from the humility of his earthly existence, has been constituted Son of God "with power." The Jesus humiliated till death on the cross can now say to the Eleven: "All power on heaven and on earth has been given to me" (Matthew 28:18). What Psalm 2:8 says has been fulfilled: "Only ask it of me, and I will make your inheritance the nations, your possession the ends of the earth."

That's why with the resurrection begins the proclamation of the Gospel of Christ to all peoples -- the Kingdom of Christ begins; this new Kingdom that does not know another power other than that of truth and love. The Resurrection therefore definitively reveals the authentic identity and the extraordinary stature of the Crucified: An incomparable and most high dignity -- Jesus is God! For St. Paul, the secret identity of Jesus, even more than in the incarnation, is revealed in the mystery of the resurrection. While the title "Christ," that is, "Messiah," "Anointed," in St. Paul tends to become the proper name of Jesus and that of Lord specifies his personal relationship with the believers, now the title Son of God comes to illustrate the intimate relationship of Jesus with God, a relationship that is fully revealed in the Paschal event. It can be said, therefore, that Jesus has risen to be the Lord of the living and the dead (cf. Romans 14:9 and 2 Corinthians 5:15) or, in other words, our Savior (cf. Romans 4:25).

All of this carries with it important consequences for our life of faith: We are called to participate from the depths of our being in the whole of the event of the death and resurrection of Christ. The Apostle says: We "have died with Christ" and we believe "that we shall also live with him. We know that Christ, raised from the dead, dies no more; death no longer has power over him" (Romans 6:8-9).

This translates into sharing the sufferings of Christ, as a prelude to this full configuration with him through the resurrection, which we gaze upon with hope. This is also what has happened to Paul, whose experience is described in the Letters with a tone that is as much precise as realistic: "to know him and the power of his resurrection and (the) sharing of his sufferings by being conformed to his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead" (Philippians 3:10-11; cf. 2 Timothy 2:8-12). The theology of the cross is not a theory -- it is a reality of Christian life. To live in faith in Jesus Christ, to live truth and love implies renunciations every day; it implies sufferings. Christianity is not a path of comfort; it is rather a demanding ascent, but enlightened with the light of Christ and with the great hope that is born from him.

St. Augustine says: Christians are not spared suffering; on the contrary, they get a little extra, because to live the faith expresses the courage to face life and history more deeply. And with everything, only in this way, experiencing suffering, we experience life in its depth, in its beauty, in the great hope elicited by Christ, crucified and risen. The believer finds himself between two poles: on one side, the Resurrection, which in some way is already present and operative in us (cf. Colossians 3:1-4; Ephesians 2:6), and on the other, the urgency of fitting oneself into this process that leads everyone and everything to plenitude, as described in the Letter to the Romans with audacious imagination: As all of creation groans and suffers near labor pains, in this way we too groan in the hope of the redemption of our body, of our redemption and resurrection (cf. Romans 8:18-23).

In sum, we can say with Paul that the true believer obtains salvation professing with his lips that Jesus is Lord and believing in his heart that God has raised him from the dead (cf. Romans 10:9). Important above all is the heart that believes in Christ and in faith "touches" the Risen One. But it is not enough to carry faith in the heart; we should confess it and give testimony with the lips, with our lives, thus making present the truth of the cross and the resurrection in our history.

In this way, the Christian fits himself in this process thanks to which the first Adam, earthly and subject to corruption and death, goes transforming into the last Adam, heavenly and incorruptible (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:20 - 22:42-49). This process has been set in motion with the resurrection of Christ, in which is founded the hope of being able to also enter with Christ into our true homeland, which is heaven. Sustained with this hope, let us continue with courage and joy.

[The Holy Father then greeted the people in several languages. In English, he said:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In our continuing catechesis on the teaching of Saint Paul, we now turn to his proclamation of the resurrection. In preaching Jesus Christ risen from the dead, Paul was concerned to "hand on" what he himself had "received" from the Apostles (cf. 1 Cor 15:3). He proclaims not only the fact of the resurrection, but its vital significance: in Christ, who died and rose for us, we have been saved, made righteous in the sight of God. The resurrection reveals Jesus’ true identity as the eternal Son of God and Lord of the living and the dead. We, for our part, are called to become fully configured to him in the mystery of his passover from death to life. Our present sufferings thus become a sharing in Christ’s own suffering and death, while the hope of the resurrection even now draws us toward the fullness of life with all the saints in his Kingdom. Salvation, Paul tells us, comes from confessing with our lips that Jesus is Lord, and believing in our hearts that God raised him from the dead (cf. Rom 10:9). With the Apostle, then, let us strive ever more fully, in faith and hope, "to know Jesus Christ and the power of his resurrection" (cf. Phil 3:10).

I am pleased to welcome all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at today’s Audience. In a particular way I greet the Patrons of the Arts in the Vatican Museums from Florida. I also extend a warm welcome to the group from the Bunri Sato Educational Institute in Saitama, Japan. I greet especially the groups from England, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Cyprus, the Philippines and the United States. Upon all of you and your families I cordially invoke God’s abundant blessings of joy and peace.

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On St. Paul and the Second Coming
"Come, Lord! Come Where You Are Not Known"

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 12, 2008 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered during today's general audience in St. Peter's Square.

The Holy Father continued today the cycle of catecheses dedicated to the figure and thought of St. Paul.

* * *

Dear brothers and sisters:

The theme of the Resurrection, which we considered last week, opens a new perspective -- that of awaiting the return of the Lord. And therefore it brings us to reflect on the relationship between the present time, the time of the Church and the Kingdom of Christ, and the future (éschaton) that awaits us, when Christ will hand over the Kingdom to the Father (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:24). Every Christian discourse on the last things, called eschatology, always starts from the event of the Resurrection: In this event the last things have already begun, and in a certain sense, are already present.

St. Paul probably wrote his first letter in the year 52, the First Letter to the Thessalonians, where he speaks of this return of Jesus, called the parousía, the advent, the new and definitive and manifest presence (cf. 4:13-18). To the Thessalonians, who have their doubts and problems, the Apostle writes thus: "If we believe that Jesus died and rose, so too will God, through Jesus, bring with him those who have fallen asleep" (4:14).

And he continues: "The dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air" (4:16-17). Paul describes the parousía of Christ with very living tones and symbolic images, but transmitting a simple and profound message: At the end, we will be always with the Lord. That is, beyond the images, the essential message: Our future is "to be with the Lord." As believers, in our lives we already are with the Lord -- our future, eternal life, has already begun.

In the Second Letter to the Thessalonians, Paul changes the perspective: He speaks of negative events that must precede that conclusive end. Do not let yourselves be deceived, he says, as if the day of the Lord were truly imminent, according to a chronological calculation. "We ask you, brothers, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our assembling with him, not to be shaken out of your minds suddenly, or to be alarmed either by a 'spirit,' or by an oral statement, or by a letter allegedly from us to the effect that the day of the Lord is at hand. Let no one deceive you in any way" (2:1-3).

The rest of this text announces that before the arrival of the Lord, there will be the apostasy and the revelation of the no better defined "wicked one," the "son of perdition" (2:3), which tradition will later call the Antichrist. But the intention of this letter of St. Paul is above all practical. He writes: "In fact, when we were with you, we instructed you that if anyone was unwilling to work, neither should that one eat. We hear that some are conducting themselves among you in a disorderly way, by not keeping busy but minding the business of others. Such people we instruct and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to work quietly and to eat their own food" (3:10-12).

In other words, the awaiting of the parousía of Jesus does not dispense with the work of this world, but on the contrary, brings responsibilities before the divine Judge regarding our way of acting in this world. Precisely thus, our responsibility to work in and for this world arises. We will see the same thing next Sunday in the Gospel of the talents, where the Lord tells us that he has entrusted talents to everyone and the Judge will ask us to account for them, saying: Have you given fruits? Therefore, the awaiting of his coming implies a responsibility toward this world.

The same thing and the same nexus between parousía -- the return of the Judge-Savior -- and our commitment in life appears in another context and with new aspects in the Letter to the Philippians. Paul is in jail and awaiting his sentence, which might be death. In this situation, he thinks of his future being with the Lord, but he also thinks of the community of Philippi, which needs its father, Paul, and he writes: "For to me life is Christ, and death is gain. If I go on living in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. And I do not know which I shall choose. I am caught between the two. I long to depart this life and be with Christ, (for) that is far better. Yet that I remain (in) the flesh is more necessary for your benefit. And this I know with confidence, that I shall remain and continue in the service of all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that your boasting in Christ Jesus may abound on account of me when I come to you again" (1:21-26).

Paul is not afraid of death, on the contrary, it means in fact the complete being with Christ. But Paul also participates in the sentiments of Christ, who has not lived for himself, but for us. Living for others becomes the program of his life and because of that, he shows his perfect readiness to do the will of God, [readiness] for what God decides. He is ready above all, also in the future, to live on earth for the others, to live for Christ, to live for his living presence and thus for the renewal of the world. We see that this being yours with Christ creates a great interior freedom: freedom before the threat of death, but freedom also before all the tasks and sufferings of life. He was simply available to God and truly free.

And we turn now, after having examined the various aspects of the waiting for the parousía of Christ, to ask ourselves: What are the fundamental attitudes of a Christian toward the last things -- death and the end of the world? The first attitude is the certainty that Jesus has risen, is with the Father, and because of that, is with us forever. And no one is stronger that Christ, because he is with the Father, is with us. Because of this, we are secure and free of fear. This was an essential effect of Christian preaching. Fear of spirits and gods was spread throughout the entire ancient world. And today as well, missionaries find -- together with so many good elements in natural religions -- the fear of spirits and the ill-fated powers that threaten us. Christ is alive; he has overcome death and has overcome all these powers. With this certainty, with this freedom, with this joy, we live. This is the first element of our living directed to the future.

In second place, the certainty that Christ is with me. And that in Christ the future world has already begun -- this also gives the certainty of hope. The future is not a darkness in which no one gets one's bearings. It is not like that. Without Christ, also for the world today, the future is dark; there is fear of the future -- a lot of fear of the future. The Christian knows that the light of Christ is stronger and because of this, lives in a hope that is not vague, in a hope that gives certainty and courage to face the future.

Finally, the third attitude: The Judge who returns -- who is Judge and Savior at the same time -- has left us the task of living in this world according to his way of living. He has given us his talents. Because of this, our third attitude is responsibility toward the world, toward our brothers before Christ, and at the same time, also certainty of his mercy. Both things are important. We don't live as if good and evil were the same, because God only can be merciful. This would be a deceit. In truth, we live with a great responsibility. We have talents, we have to work so this world opens itself to Christ, so that it is renewed. But even working and knowing in our responsibility that God is a true judge, we are also sure that he is a good judge. We know his face -- the face of the risen Christ, of Christ crucified for us. Therefore we can we sure of his goodness and continue forward with great courage.

Following the Pauline teaching on eschatology is the fact of the universality of the call to faith, which unites Jews and Gentiles, that is, the pagans, as a sign and anticipation of the future reality, by which we can say that we are already seated in heaven with Christ, but to show to future centuries the richness of grace (cf. Ephesians 2:6ff): The "after" becomes a "before" to make evident the state of incipient fulfillment in which we live. This makes tolerable the sufferings of the present moment, which are not comparable to future glory (cf. Romans 8:18). We walk by faith and not by sight, and though it would be preferable to leave the body and live with the Lord, what matters definitively, whether dwelling in the body or leaving it, is being pleasing to God (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:7-9).

Finally, a last point that perhaps seems a little difficult for us. St. Paul in the conclusion of his Second Letter to the Corinthians repeats and also puts on the lips of the Corinthians, a prayer originating in the first Christian communities of the area of Palestine: Maranà, thà!, which literally means, "Our Lord, come!" (16:22). It was the prayer of the first Christian community and the last book of the New Testament, Revelation, also closes with this prayer: "Come Lord!"

Can we also pray like this? It seems to me that for us today, in our lives, in our world, it is difficult to sincerely pray so that this world perishes, so that the new Jerusalem comes, so that the final judgment and Christ the judge come. I think that if we don't dare to sincerely pray like this for many reasons, nevertheless in a just and correct way we can also say with the first Christians: "Come, Lord Jesus."

Certainly, we don't want the end of the world to come now. But, on the other hand, we want this unjust world to end. We also want the world to be deeply changed, the civilization of love to begin, [we want] a world of justice and peace, without violence, without hunger, to arrive. We all want this -- and how can it happen without the presence of Christ? Without the presence of Christ, a just and renewed world will never really arrive. And though in another way, totally and deeply, we too can and should say, with great urgency and in the circumstances of our time, Come, Lord! Come to your world, in the way that you know. Come where there is injustice and violence. Come to the refugee camps, in Darfur and in North Kivu, in so many places in the world. Come where drugs dominate. Come, too, among those rich people who have forgotten you and who live only for themselves. Come where you are not known. Come to your world and renew the world of today. Come also to our hearts. Come and renew our lives. Come to our hearts so that we ourselves can be light of God, your presence.

In this sense, we pray with St. Paul: Maranà, thà! Come, Lord Jesus! And we pray so that Christ is really present today in our world, and that he renews it.

[Translation by ZENIT]

[The Holy Father then addressed the crowds in various languages. In English, he said:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In our continuing catechesis on Saint Paul, we now turn from his proclamation of Christ’s death and resurrection to his teaching on the Lord’s second coming. For Paul, the Lord’s return at the end of time will be accompanied by the resurrection of the dead and the consummation of his Kingdom, when all those who believed in him and trusted in his promises "will be with him for ever" in glory (cf. 1 Thess 4:17). Christ’s victorious reign has in fact already begun. Yet we, who have received the Spirit as the first fruits of our redemption, patiently await the fulfilment of that plan in our lives. Our life in this world, marked by trials and tribulations, must be inspired by the hope of heaven and the expectation of our resurrection to glory. Paul’s rich eschatology, linking the "already" of Christ’s resurrection to the "not yet" of our life in this world, is reflected in his statement that "in hope we were saved" (Rom 8:24). This same joyful expectation of the Lord’s return and the fulfilment of the Father’s saving plan is seen in the ancient Christian prayer with which he concludes his first Letter to the Corinthians: Maranà, thà! Come, Lord Jesus!

I offer a warm welcome to all the English-speaking visitors present at today’s Audience, particularly priests from the Missionary Society of Saint Paul the Apostle, members of the Corpus Christi Movement for Priests, participants in the International Catholic Conference of Scouting, and pilgrims from the Philippines, England, Nigeria, and the United States of America. Upon you and your families I cordially invoke God’s blessings of joy and peace.

© Copyright 2008 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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On St. Paul and Justification
"To Be Just Means Simply to Be With Christ and in Christ"

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 19, 2008 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered during today's general audience in St. Peter's Square.

The Holy Father continued today the cycle of catecheses dedicated to the figure and thought of St. Paul.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

On the journey we have undertaken under the guidance of St. Paul, we now wish to reflect on a topic that is at the center of the controversies of the century of the Reformation: the issue of justification. How is a man just in the eyes of God? When Paul met the Risen One on the road to Damascus he was a fulfilled man: irreproachable in regard to justice derived from the law (cf. Philippians 3:6); he surpassed many of his contemporaries in the observance of the Mosaic prescriptions and was zealous in upholding the traditions of his forefathers (cf. Galatians 1:14).

The illumination of Damascus changed his life radically: He began to regard all his merits, achievements of a most honest religious career, as "loss" in face of the sublimity of knowledge of Jesus Christ (cf. Philippians 3:8). The Letter to the Philippians gives us a moving testimony of Paul's turning from a justice based on the law and achieved by observance of the prescribed works, to a justice based on faith in Christ: He understood all that up to now had seemed a gain to him was in fact a loss before God, and because of this decided to dedicate his whole life to Jesus Christ (cf. Philippians 3:7). The treasure hidden in the field, and the precious pearl in whose possession he invests everything, were no longer the works of the law, but Jesus Christ, his Lord.

The relationship between Paul and the Risen One is so profound that it impels him to affirm that Christ was not only his life, but his living, to the point that to be able to reach him, even death was a gain (cf. Philippians 1:21). It was not because he did not appreciate life, but because he understood that for him, living no longer had another objective; therefore, he no longer had a desire other than to reach Christ, as in an athletic competition, to be with him always. The Risen One had become the beginning and end of his existence, the reason and goal of his running. Only concern for the growth in faith of those he had evangelized and solicitude for all the Churches he had founded (cf. 2 Corinthians 11:28), induced him to slow down the run toward his only Lord, to wait for his disciples, so that they would be able to run to the goal with him. If in the previous observance of the law he had nothing to reproach himself from the point of view of moral integrity, once overtaken by Christ he preferred not to judge himself (cf. 1 Corinthians 4:3-4), but limited himself to run to conquer the one who had conquered him (cf. Philippians 3:12).

It is precisely because of this personal experience of the relationship with Jesus that Paul places at the center of his Gospel an irreducible opposition between two alternative paths to justice: one based on the works of the law, the other founded on the grace of faith in Christ. The alternative between justice through the works of the law and justice through faith in Christ thus becomes one of the dominant themes that runs through his letters: "We ourselves, who are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners, yet who know that a man is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, in order to be justified by faith in Christ, and not by works of the law, because by works of the law shall no one be justified" (Galatians 2:15-16).

And, he reaffirms to the Christians of Rome that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, they are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus" (Romans 3:23-24). And he adds: "For we hold that a man is justified by faith apart from works of law" (Ibid. 28). Luther translated this point as "justified by faith alone." I will return to this at the end of the catechesis.

First, we must clarify what is the "law" from which we have been freed and what are those "works of the law" that do not justify. Already in the community of Corinth there was the opinion, which will return many times in history, which consisted in thinking that it was a question of the moral law, and that Christian freedom consisted therefore in being free from ethics. So, the words "panta mou estin" (everything is licit for me) circulated in Corinth. It is obvious that this interpretation is erroneous: Christian liberty is not libertinism; the freedom of which St. Paul speaks is not freedom from doing good.

Therefore, what is the meaning of the law from which we have been freed and that does not save? For St. Paul, as well as for all his contemporaries, the word law meant the Torah in its totality, namely, the five books of Moses. In the Pharisaic interpretation, the Torah implied what Paul had studied and made his own, a collection of behaviors extending from an ethical foundation to the ritual and cultural observances that substantially determined the identity of the just man -- particularly circumcision, the observance regarding pure food and general ritual purity, the rules regarding observance of the Sabbath, etc. These behaviors often appear in the debates between Jesus and his contemporaries. All these observances that express a social, cultural and religious identity had come to be singularly important at the time of Hellenistic culture, beginning in the 3rd century B.C.

This culture, which had become the universal culture of the time, was a seemingly rational culture, an apparently tolerant polytheist culture, which constituted a strong pressure toward cultural uniformity and thus threatened the identity of Israel, which was politically obliged to enter into this common identity of Hellenistic culture with the consequent loss of its own identity, loss hence also of the precious inheritance of the faith of their Fathers, of faith in the one God and in God's promises.

Against this cultural pressure, which not only threatened Jewish identity but also faith in the one God and his promises, it was necessary to create a wall of distinction, a defense shield that would protect the precious inheritance of the faith; this wall would consist precisely of the Jewish observances and prescriptions. Paul, who had learned these observances precisely in their defensive function of the gift of God, of the inheritance of the faith in only one God, saw this identity threatened by the freedom of Christians: That is why he persecuted them. At the moment of his encounter with the Risen One he understood that with Christ's resurrection the situation had changed radically. With Christ, the God of Israel, the only true God became the God of all peoples.

The wall -- so says the Letter to the Ephesians -- between Israel and the pagans was no longer necessary: It is Christ who protects us against polytheism and all its deviations; it is Christ who unites us with and in the one God; it is Christ who guarantees our true identity in the diversity of cultures; and it is he who makes us just. To be just means simply to be with Christ and in Christ. And this suffices. Other observances are no longer necessary.

That is why Luther's expression "sola fide" is true if faith is not opposed to charity, to love. Faith is to look at Christ, to entrust oneself to Christ, to be united to Christ, to be conformed to Christ, to his life. And the form, the life of Christ, is love; hence, to believe is to be conformed to Christ and to enter into his love. That is why, in the Letter to the Galatians, St. Paul develops above all his doctrine on justification; he speaks of faith that operates through charity (cf. Galatians 5:14).

Paul knows that in the double love of God and neighbor the whole law is fulfilled. Thus the whole law is observed in communion with Christ, in faith that creates charity. We are just when we enter into communion with Christ, who is love. We will see the same in next Sunday's Gospel for the solemnity of Christ the King. It is the Gospel of the judge whose sole criterion is love. What I ask is only this: Did you visit me when I was sick? When I was in prison? Did you feed me when I was hungry, clothe me when I was naked? So justice is decided in charity. Thus, at the end of this Gospel, we can say: love alone, charity alone. However, there is no contradiction between this Gospel and St. Paul. It is the same vision, the one according to which communion with Christ, faith in Christ, creates charity. And charity is the realization of communion with Christ. Thus, being united to him we are just, and in no other way.

At the end, we can only pray to the Lord so that he will help us to believe. To really believe; belief thus becomes life, unity with Christ, the transformation of our life. And thus, transformed by his love, by love of God and neighbor, we can really be just in the eyes of God.


[At the end of the Audience, Benedict XVI greeted pilgrims in several languages. In English, he said:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In our continuing catechesis on St. Paul, we now consider his teaching on our justification. Paul’s experience of the Risen Lord on the road to Damascus led him to see that it is only by faith in Christ, and not by any merit of our own, that we are made righteous before God. Our justification in Christ is thus God’s gracious gift, revealed in the mystery of the Cross. Christ died in order to become our wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption (cf. 1 Cor 1:30), and we in turn, justified by faith, have become in him the very righteousness of God (cf. 2 Cor 5:21). In the light of the Cross and its gifts of reconciliation and new life in the Spirit, Paul rejected a righteousness based on the Law and its works.

For the Apostle, the Mosaic Law, as an irrevocable gift of God to Israel, is not abrogated but relativized, since it is only by faith in God’s promises to Abraham, now fulfilled in Christ, that we receive the grace of justification and new life. The Law finds its end in Christ (cf. Rom 10:4) and its fulfilment in the new commandment of love. With Paul, then, let us make the Cross of Christ our only boast (cf. Gal 6:14), and give thanks for the grace which has made us members of Christ’s Body, which is the Church.

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On St. Paul and Justification
"To Be Just Means Simply to Be With Christ and in Christ"

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 19, 2008 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered during today's general audience in St. Peter's Square.

The Holy Father continued today the cycle of catecheses dedicated to the figure and thought of St. Paul.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

On the journey we have undertaken under the guidance of St. Paul, we now wish to reflect on a topic that is at the center of the controversies of the century of the Reformation: the issue of justification. How is a man just in the eyes of God? When Paul met the Risen One on the road to Damascus he was a fulfilled man: irreproachable in regard to justice derived from the law (cf. Philippians 3:6); he surpassed many of his contemporaries in the observance of the Mosaic prescriptions and was zealous in upholding the traditions of his forefathers (cf. Galatians 1:14).

The illumination of Damascus changed his life radically: He began to regard all his merits, achievements of a most honest religious career, as "loss" in face of the sublimity of knowledge of Jesus Christ (cf. Philippians 3:8). The Letter to the Philippians gives us a moving testimony of Paul's turning from a justice based on the law and achieved by observance of the prescribed works, to a justice based on faith in Christ: He understood all that up to now had seemed a gain to him was in fact a loss before God, and because of this decided to dedicate his whole life to Jesus Christ (cf. Philippians 3:7). The treasure hidden in the field, and the precious pearl in whose possession he invests everything, were no longer the works of the law, but Jesus Christ, his Lord.

The relationship between Paul and the Risen One is so profound that it impels him to affirm that Christ was not only his life, but his living, to the point that to be able to reach him, even death was a gain (cf. Philippians 1:21). It was not because he did not appreciate life, but because he understood that for him, living no longer had another objective; therefore, he no longer had a desire other than to reach Christ, as in an athletic competition, to be with him always. The Risen One had become the beginning and end of his existence, the reason and goal of his running. Only concern for the growth in faith of those he had evangelized and solicitude for all the Churches he had founded (cf. 2 Corinthians 11:28), induced him to slow down the run toward his only Lord, to wait for his disciples, so that they would be able to run to the goal with him. If in the previous observance of the law he had nothing to reproach himself from the point of view of moral integrity, once overtaken by Christ he preferred not to judge himself (cf. 1 Corinthians 4:3-4), but limited himself to run to conquer the one who had conquered him (cf. Philippians 3:12).

It is precisely because of this personal experience of the relationship with Jesus that Paul places at the center of his Gospel an irreducible opposition between two alternative paths to justice: one based on the works of the law, the other founded on the grace of faith in Christ. The alternative between justice through the works of the law and justice through faith in Christ thus becomes one of the dominant themes that runs through his letters: "We ourselves, who are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners, yet who know that a man is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, in order to be justified by faith in Christ, and not by works of the law, because by works of the law shall no one be justified" (Galatians 2:15-16).

And, he reaffirms to the Christians of Rome that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, they are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus" (Romans 3:23-24). And he adds: "For we hold that a man is justified by faith apart from works of law" (Ibid. 28). Luther translated this point as "justified by faith alone." I will return to this at the end of the catechesis.

First, we must clarify what is the "law" from which we have been freed and what are those "works of the law" that do not justify. Already in the community of Corinth there was the opinion, which will return many times in history, which consisted in thinking that it was a question of the moral law, and that Christian freedom consisted therefore in being free from ethics. So, the words "panta mou estin" (everything is licit for me) circulated in Corinth. It is obvious that this interpretation is erroneous: Christian liberty is not libertinism; the freedom of which St. Paul speaks is not freedom from doing good.

Therefore, what is the meaning of the law from which we have been freed and that does not save? For St. Paul, as well as for all his contemporaries, the word law meant the Torah in its totality, namely, the five books of Moses. In the Pharisaic interpretation, the Torah implied what Paul had studied and made his own, a collection of behaviors extending from an ethical foundation to the ritual and cultural observances that substantially determined the identity of the just man -- particularly circumcision, the observance regarding pure food and general ritual purity, the rules regarding observance of the Sabbath, etc. These behaviors often appear in the debates between Jesus and his contemporaries. All these observances that express a social, cultural and religious identity had come to be singularly important at the time of Hellenistic culture, beginning in the 3rd century B.C.

This culture, which had become the universal culture of the time, was a seemingly rational culture, an apparently tolerant polytheist culture, which constituted a strong pressure toward cultural uniformity and thus threatened the identity of Israel, which was politically obliged to enter into this common identity of Hellenistic culture with the consequent loss of its own identity, loss hence also of the precious inheritance of the faith of their Fathers, of faith in the one God and in God's promises.

Against this cultural pressure, which not only threatened Jewish identity but also faith in the one God and his promises, it was necessary to create a wall of distinction, a defense shield that would protect the precious inheritance of the faith; this wall would consist precisely of the Jewish observances and prescriptions. Paul, who had learned these observances precisely in their defensive function of the gift of God, of the inheritance of the faith in only one God, saw this identity threatened by the freedom of Christians: That is why he persecuted them. At the moment of his encounter with the Risen One he understood that with Christ's resurrection the situation had changed radically. With Christ, the God of Israel, the only true God became the God of all peoples.

The wall -- so says the Letter to the Ephesians -- between Israel and the pagans was no longer necessary: It is Christ who protects us against polytheism and all its deviations; it is Christ who unites us with and in the one God; it is Christ who guarantees our true identity in the diversity of cultures; and it is he who makes us just. To be just means simply to be with Christ and in Christ. And this suffices. Other observances are no longer necessary.

That is why Luther's expression "sola fide" is true if faith is not opposed to charity, to love. Faith is to look at Christ, to entrust oneself to Christ, to be united to Christ, to be conformed to Christ, to his life. And the form, the life of Christ, is love; hence, to believe is to be conformed to Christ and to enter into his love. That is why, in the Letter to the Galatians, St. Paul develops above all his doctrine on justification; he speaks of faith that operates through charity (cf. Galatians 5:14).

Paul knows that in the double love of God and neighbor the whole law is fulfilled. Thus the whole law is observed in communion with Christ, in faith that creates charity. We are just when we enter into communion with Christ, who is love. We will see the same in next Sunday's Gospel for the solemnity of Christ the King. It is the Gospel of the judge whose sole criterion is love. What I ask is only this: Did you visit me when I was sick? When I was in prison? Did you feed me when I was hungry, clothe me when I was naked? So justice is decided in charity. Thus, at the end of this Gospel, we can say: love alone, charity alone. However, there is no contradiction between this Gospel and St. Paul. It is the same vision, the one according to which communion with Christ, faith in Christ, creates charity. And charity is the realization of communion with Christ. Thus, being united to him we are just, and in no other way.

At the end, we can only pray to the Lord so that he will help us to believe. To really believe; belief thus becomes life, unity with Christ, the transformation of our life. And thus, transformed by his love, by love of God and neighbor, we can really be just in the eyes of God.


[At the end of the Audience, Benedict XVI greeted pilgrims in several languages. In English, he said:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In our continuing catechesis on St. Paul, we now consider his teaching on our justification. Paul’s experience of the Risen Lord on the road to Damascus led him to see that it is only by faith in Christ, and not by any merit of our own, that we are made righteous before God. Our justification in Christ is thus God’s gracious gift, revealed in the mystery of the Cross. Christ died in order to become our wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption (cf. 1 Cor 1:30), and we in turn, justified by faith, have become in him the very righteousness of God (cf. 2 Cor 5:21). In the light of the Cross and its gifts of reconciliation and new life in the Spirit, Paul rejected a righteousness based on the Law and its works.

For the Apostle, the Mosaic Law, as an irrevocable gift of God to Israel, is not abrogated but relativized, since it is only by faith in God’s promises to Abraham, now fulfilled in Christ, that we receive the grace of justification and new life. The Law finds its end in Christ (cf. Rom 10:4) and its fulfilment in the new commandment of love. With Paul, then, let us make the Cross of Christ our only boast (cf. Gal 6:14), and give thanks for the grace which has made us members of Christ’s Body, which is the Church.

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On Signs of a Living Faith
"Christian Ethics … Is the Consequence of our Friendship With Christ"

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 26, 2008 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered during today's general audience in St. Peter's Square.

Before the Holy Father continued with the cycle of catecheses dedicated to the figure and thought of St. Paul, he addressed Aram I, catholicos of Cilicia of the Armenians.

* * *

[Pope's English-language address to Aram I:]

This morning I greet with great joy His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of Cilicia of the Armenians, together with the distinguished delegation accompanying him, and the Armenian pilgrims from various countries. This fraternal visit is a significant occasion for strengthening the bonds of unity already existing between us, as we journey towards that full communion which is both the goal set before all Christ's followers and a gift to be implored daily from the Lord.

For this reason, Your Holiness, I invoke the grace of the Holy Spirit on your pilgrimage to the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul, and I invite all present to pray fervently to the Lord that your visit, and our meetings, will mark a further step along the path towards full unity.

Your Holiness, I wish to express my particular gratitude for your constant personal involvement in the field of ecumenism, especially in the International Joint Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches, and in the World Council of Churches.

On the exterior façade of the Vatican Basilica is a statue of Saint Gregory the Illuminator, founder of the Armenian Church, whom one of your historians has called "our progenitor and father in the Gospel". The presence of this statue evokes the sufferings he endured in bringing the Armenian people to Christianity, but it also recalls the many martyrs and confessors of the faith whose witness bore rich fruit in the history of your people. Armenian culture and spirituality are pervaded by pride in this witness of their forefathers, who suffered with fidelity and courage in communion with the Lamb slain for the salvation of the world.

Welcome, Your Holiness, dear Bishops and dear friends! Together let us invoke the intercession of Saint Gregory the Illuminator and above all the Virgin Mother of God, so that they will enlighten our way and guide it towards the fullness of that unity which we all desire.

[Catechesis in Italian:]

Dear brothers and sisters,

In last Wednesday's catechesis, I spoke of the question of how man is justified before God. Following St. Paul, we have seen that man is not capable of making himself "just" with his own actions, but rather that he can truly become "just" before God only because God confers on him his "justice," uniting him to Christ, his Son. And man obtains this union with Christ through faith.

In this sense, St. Paul tells us: It is not our works, but our faith that makes us "just." This faith, nevertheless, is not a thought, opinion or idea. This faith is communion with Christ, which the Lord entrusts to us and that because of this, becomes life in conformity with him. Or in other words, faith, if it is true and real, becomes love, charity -- is expressed in charity. Faith without charity, without this fruit, would not be true faith. It would be a dead faith.

We have therefore discovered two levels in the last catechesis: that of the insufficiency of our works for achieving salvation, and that of "justification" through faith that produces the fruit of the Spirit. The confusion between these two levels down through the centuries has caused not a few misunderstandings in Christianity.

In this context it is important that St. Paul, in the Letter to the Galatians, puts emphasis on one hand, and in a radical way, on the gratuitousness of justification not by our efforts, and, at the same time, he emphasizes as well the relationship between faith and charity, between faith and works. "For in Christ Jesus, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love" (Galatians 5:6). Consequently, there are on one hand the "works of the flesh," which are fornication, impurity, debauchery, idolatry, etc. (Galatians 5:19-21), all of which are contrary to the faith. On the other hand is the action of the Holy Spirit, which nourishes Christian life stirring up "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control" (Galatians 5:22): These are the fruits of the Spirit that arise from faith.

At the beginning of this list of virtues is cited ágape, love, and at the end, self-control. In reality, the Spirit, who is the Love of the Father and the Son, infuses his first gift, ágape, into our hearts (cf. Romans 5:5); and ágape, love, to be fully expressed, demands self-control. Regarding the love of the Father and the Son, which comes to us and profoundly transforms our existence, I dedicated my first encyclical, "Deus Caritas Est." Believers know that in mutual love the love of God and of Christ is incarnated by means of the Spirit.

Let us return to the Letter of the Galatians. Here, St. Paul says that believers complete the command of love by bearing each other's burdens (cf. Galatians 6:2). Justified by the gift of faith in Christ, we are called to live in the love of Christ toward others, because it is by this criterion that we will be judged at the end of our existence. In reality, Paul does nothing more than repeat what Jesus himself had said, and which we recalled in the Gospel of last Sunday, in the parable of the Final Judgment.

In the First Letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul becomes expansive with his famous praise of love. It is the so-called hymn to charity: "If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal. … Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, (love) is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests …" (1 Corinthians 13:1,4-5).

Christian love is so demanding because it springs from the total love of Christ for us: this love that demands from us, welcomes us, embraces us, sustains us, even torments us, because it obliges us to live no longer for ourselves, closed in on our egotism, but for "him who has died and risen for us" (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:15). The love of Christ makes us be in him this new creature (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:17), who enters to form part of his mystical body that is the Church.

From this perspective, the centrality of justification without works, primary object of Paul's preaching, is not in contradiction with the faith that operates in love. On the contrary, it demands that our very faith is expressed in a life according to the Spirit. Often, an unfounded contraposition has been seen between the theology of Paul and James, who says in his letter: "For just as a body without a spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead" (2:26).

In reality, while Paul concerns himself above all with demonstrating that faith in Christ is necessary and sufficient, James highlights the consequent relationship between faith and works (cf. James 2:2-4). Therefore, for Paul and for James, faith operative in love witnesses to the gratuitous gift of justification in Christ. Salvation, received in Christ, needs to be protected and witnessed "with fear and trembling. For God is the one who, for his good purpose, works in you both to desire and to work. Do everything without grumbling or questioning … as you hold on to the word of life," even St. Paul would say to the Christians of Philippi (cf. Philippians 2:12-14,16).

Often we tend to fall into the same misunderstandings that have characterized the community of Corinth: Those Christians thought that, having been gratuitously justified in Christ by faith, "everything was licit." And they thought, and often it seems that the Christians of today think, that it is licit to create divisions in the Church, the body of Christ, to celebrate the Eucharist without concerning oneself with the brothers who are most needy, to aspire to the best charisms without realizing that they are members of each other, etc.

The consequences of a faith that is not incarnated in love are disastrous, because it is reduced to a most dangerous abuse and subjectivism for us and for our brothers. On the contrary, following St. Paul, we should renew our awareness of the fact that, precisely because we have been justified in Christ, we don't belong to ourselves, but have been made into the temple of the Spirit and are called, therefore, to glorify God in our bodies and with the whole of our existence (cf. 1 Corinthians 6:19). It would be to scorn the inestimable value of justification if, having been bought at the high price of the blood of Christ, we didn't glorify him with our body. In reality, this is precisely our "reasonable" and at the same time "spiritual" worship, for which Paul exhorts us to "offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God" (Romans 12:1).

To what would be reduced a liturgy directed only to the Lord but that doesn't become, at the same time, service of the brethren, a faith that is not expressed in charity? And the Apostle often puts his communities before the Final Judgment, on which occasion "we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive recompense, according to what he did in the body, whether good or evil" (2 Corinthians 5:10; and cf. Romans 2:16).

If the ethics that St. Paul proposes to believers does not lapse into forms of moralism, and if it shows itself to be current for us, it is because, each time, it always recommences from the personal and communitarian relationship with Christ, to verify itself in life according to the Spirit. This is essential: Christian ethics is not born from a system of commandments, but rather is the consequence of our friendship with Christ. This friendship influences life: If it is true, it incarnates and fulfills itself in love for neighbor. Hence, any ethical decline is not limited to the individual sphere, but at the same time, devalues personal and communitarian faith: From this it is derived and on this, it has a determinant effect.

Let us, therefore, be overtaken by the reconciliation that God has given us in Christ, by God's "crazy" love for us: No one and nothing could ever separate us from his love (cf. Romans 8:39). With this certainty we live. And this certainty gives us the strength to live concretely the faith that works in love.

[Translation by ZENIT]

[After the audience, the Holy Father greeted the people in several languages. In English, he said:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In our continuing catechesis on Saint Paul, we now consider his teaching on faith and works in the process of our justification. Paul insists that we are justified by faith in Christ, and not by any merit of our own. Yet he also emphasizes the relationship between faith and those works which are the fruit of the Holy Spirit’s presence and action within us. The first gift of the Spirit is love, the love of the Father and the Son poured into our hearts (cf. Rom 5:5). Our sharing in the love of Christ leads us to live no longer for ourselves, but for him (cf. 2 Cor 5:14-15); it makes us a new creation (cf. 2 Cor 5:17) and members of his Body, the Church. Faith thus works through love (cf. Gal 5:6). Consequently, there is no contradiction between what Saint Paul teaches and what Saint James teaches regarding the relationship between justifying faith and the fruit which it bears in good works. Rather, there is a different emphasis. Redeemed by the precious blood of Christ, we are called to glorify him in our bodies (cf. 1 Cor 6:20), offering ourselves as a spiritual sacrifice pleasing to God. Justified by the gift of faith in Christ, we are called, as individuals and as a community, to treasure that gift and to let it bear rich fruit in the Spirit.

I am pleased to greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at today’s Audience, especially those from England and the United States of America. I pray that your stay in Rome will renew your love for the Lord Jesus Christ and strengthen you in his service. Upon all of you I cordially invoke God’s blessings of joy and peace.

© Copyright 2008 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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On Christ, the New Adam
"God Himself Has Entered History As New Source of Goodness"

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 3, 2008 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered during today's general audience in Paul VI Hall.

The Holy Father continued today the cycle of catecheses dedicated to the figure and thought of St. Paul.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In today's catechesis we reflect on the relationship between Adam and Christ, delineated by St. Paul in the well-known page of the Letter to the Romans (5:12-21), in which he instructs the Church on the essential lines of the doctrine of original sin. In fact, already in the First Letter to the Corinthians, referring to faith in the resurrection, Paul introduced the encounter between our forefather and Christ: "For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive ... The first man Adam became a living being"; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit" (1 Corinthians 15:22.45). With Romans 5:12-21, the encounter between Christ and Adam is more articulated and illuminating: Paul reviews the history of salvation from Adam to the Law and from the latter to Christ. Adam is not at the center of the scene with the consequences of sin on humanity, but Jesus Christ and grace that, through him, was poured in abundance on humanity. The repetition of "all the more" in regard to Christ underlines how the gift received in Him surpasses by far Adam's sin and the consequences brought on mankind, so that Paul can add at the end: "But where sin increased, grace abounded all the more" (Romans 5:20). Hence, the encounter Paul traces between Adam and Christ brings to light the inferiority of the first man vis-à-vis the prevalence of the second.

On the other hand, it is appropriate to make evident the incommensurable gift of grace in Christ that Paul attributes to Adam's sin: It could be said that if it were not to demonstrate the centrality of grace, he would not have hesitated to discuss sin that "came into the world through one man and death through sin" (Romans 5:12). Because of this if, in the faith of the Church the awareness matured of the dogma of original sin it is because it is indissolubly connected with the other dogma, that of salvation and freedom in Christ. The consequence of this is that we must never treat the sin of Adam and of humanity in a way that is detached from the salvific context, namely, without understanding it on the horizon of justification in Christ.

However, as men of today we must ask ourselves: What is this original sin? What does St. Paul teach, what does the Church teach? Is this doctrine still tenable today? Many think that, in the light of the history of evolution, there is no longer a place for the doctrine of a first sin, which then spread to the whole history of humanity. And, consequently, the question of the Resurrection and of the Redeemer would also lose its foundation. So, does original sin exist or not? To be able to respond we must distinguish two aspects of the doctrine on original sin. There is an empirical aspect, namely, a concrete, visible, I would say tangible reality for all, and a mysterious aspect, regarding the ontological foundation of this fact. The empirical fact is that there is a contradiction in our being. On one hand, every man knows that he must do good and he profoundly wants to do so. However, at the same time, he also feels the other impulse to do the contrary, to follow the path of egoism, violence, of doing only what pleases him even while knowing that he is acting against the good, against God and against his neighbor. In his Letter to the Romans Saint Paul expressed this contradiction in our being thus: "I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do" (7:18-19). This interior contradiction of our being is not a theory. Each one of us experiences it every day. And above all we always see around us the prevalence of this second will. Suffice it to think of the daily news on injustice, violence, falsehood, lust. We see it every day: It is a fact.

As a consequence of this power of evil in our souls, a filthy river has developed in history, which poisons the geography of human history. The great French thinker Blaise Pascal spoke of a "second nature," which is superimposed on our original good nature. This "second nature" makes evil appear as normal for man. Thus even the usual expression: ":this is human" has a double meaning. "This is human" might mean: This man is good, he really acts as a man should act. However, "this is human" might also mean falsehood: Evil is normal, it is human. Evil seems to have become a second nature. This contradiction of the human being, of our history should provoke, and provokes even today, the desire for redemption. And, in fact, the desire that the world be changed and the promise that a world be created of justice, peace, goodness is present everywhere: In politics, for example, all speak of this need to change the world, to create a more just world. It is precisely this expression of the desire that there be a liberation from the contradiction we experience in ourselves.

Hence, the fact of the power of evil in the human heart and in human history is undeniable. The question is: How is this evil explained? In the history of thought, except for the Christian faith, there is a principal model of explanation, with several variations. This model says: being itself is contradictory, it bears within it good and evil. In ancient times this idea implied the opinion that two equally original principles existed: a good principle and an evil principle. This dualism was insurmountable; the two principles are on the same level, hence there will always be, from the origin of being, this contradiction. The contradiction of our being, therefore, reflects only the contrariety of two divine principles, so to speak. In the evolutionist, atheist version of the world the same vision returns in a new way. Even if, in such a concession, the vision of being is monistic, it is implied that being as such from the beginning bears in itself evil and good. Being itself is not simply good, but open to good and evil. Evil is equally original as good, and human history would develop only the model already present in the whole of the preceding evolution. That which we Christians call original sin is in reality only the mixed character of being, a mixture of good and evil, according to this theory, it belonged to the very fabric of being. Deep down, it is a despairing vision: If it is so, evil is invincible. In the end, only self-interest matters. And every progress would necessarily have to be paid for with a river of evil and whoever wishes to serve progress must accept to pay this price. Politics, deep down, is based precisely on these premises: And we see the effects. This modern thought can, in the end, only create sadness and cynicism.

And so we ask again: What does faith say, as witnessed by St. Paul? As a first point, it confirms the fact of the competition between the two natures, the fact of this evil whose shadow weighs on the whole of creation. We heard Chapter 7 of the Letter to the Romans, we can add Chapter 8. Evil simply exists. As explanation, in contrast with the dualisms and monisms that we considered briefly and found desolating, faith tells us: There are two mysteries of light and one mystery of night, which is, however, shrouded by the mysteries of light. The first mystery of light is this: Faith tells us that there are not two principles, one good and one evil, but only one principle, the creator God, and this principle is good, only good, without a shadow of evil. As well, being is not a mixture of good and evil; being as such is good and because of this it is good to be, it is good to live. This is the happy proclamation of faith: there is only one good source, the Creator. And because of this, to live is good, it is a good thing to be a man, a woman, life is good. Then a mystery of darkness, of night follows. Evil does not come from the source of being itself, it is not equally original. Evil comes from a created liberty, from an abused liberty.

How was this possible, how did it happen? This remains obscure. Evil is not logical. Only God and the good are logical, are light. Evil remains mysterious. It has been presented in great images, as does chapter 3 of Genesis, with the vision of two trees, of the serpent, of sinful man. A great image that makes us guess, but it cannot explain how much in itself is illogical. We can guess, not explain; nor can we recount it as a fact next to another, because it is a more profound reality. It remains a mystery of darkness, of night. However, a mystery of light is immediately added. Evil comes from a subordinate source. With his light, God is stronger and, because of this, evil can be overcome. Therefore, the creature, man, is curable.; but if evil comes only from a subordinate source, it remains true that man is curable. And the Book of Wisdom says: "the creatures of the world are wholesome" (1:14).

And finally, the last point, man is not only curable, he is in fact cured. God has introduced healing. He entered in person into history. To the permanent source of evil he has opposed a source of pure good. Christ crucified and risen, the new Adam, opposed the filthy river of evil with a river of light. And this river is present in history: We see the saints, the great saints but also the humble saints, the simple faithful. We see that the river of light that comes from Christ is present, is strong.

Brothers and sisters, it is the time of Advent. In the language of the Church the word Advent has two meanings: presence and expectation. Presence: The light is present, Christ is the new Adam, he is with us and in our midst. The light already shines and we must open the eyes of the heart to see the light and to enter the river of light. Above all to be grateful for the fact that God himself has entered history as new source of goodness. But Advent also means expectation. The dark night of evil is still strong. And that is why we pray in Advent with the ancient people of God: "Rorate caeli desuper." And we pray with insistence: Come Jesus; come, give force to light and goodness; come where falsehood, ignorance of God, violence and injustice dominate; come, Lord Jesus, give force to the good of the world and help us to be bearers of your light, agents of peace, witnesses of truth. Come Lord Jesus!

[The Holy Father then greeted pilgrims in several languages. In English, he said:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In our continuing catechesis on Saint Paul, we now consider the Apostle's teaching on the relation between Adam, the first man, and Christ, the second Adam (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:22.45; Romans 5:12-21). Paul's teaching on the sin of Adam and its disastrous consequences for the human family is meant to emphasize the surpassing gift of grace bestowed on humanity by Jesus Christ. Seen in this light, the doctrine of original sin explains the misery of our human condition, yet Paul also underlines the moral responsibility of each man and woman for this tragic reality. "All have sinned," the Apostle tells us, "and all fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). Yet now, by faith in Christ, we have been justified and are at peace with God (cf. Romans 5:1). Christ, the new Adam, by his obedience to the Father's will, has set mankind free from the ancient burden of sin and death. In Baptism, he has given us a share in his saving death and resurrection, and made us adoptive children of the Father.

The new life and freedom which we have received by the grace of Christ impels us to bear witness to the sure hope that all creation will be freed from its bondage to corruption, and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God (cf. Romans 8:19ff.).

I am pleased to greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present in today's Audience, especially those from Malta, Australia, South Korea and the United States of America. Upon you and your families I cordially invoke an abundance of joy and peace in our Lord Jesus Christ.

[In Italian, he said:]

Finally I direct an affectionate thought to young people, the sick and newlyweds. Dear young people, I invite you to rediscover, in the spiritual climate of Advent, intimacy with Christ, placing yourselves in the school of the Virgin Mary. I recommend to you, dear sick people, to spend this period of waiting and incessant prayer, offering to the Lord who is coming your sufferings for the salvation of the world. Finally, I exhort you, dear newlyweds, to be builders of genuine Christian families, being inspired in the model of the Holy Family of Nazareth, whom you should look to particularly in this time of preparation for Christmas.

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On St. Paul and the Sacraments
"No One Makes Himself a Christian. We Become Christians"

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 12, 2008 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered Wednesday at the general audience, held in Paul VI Hall.

Because the Holy Father improvised portions of the address, the complete text was transcribed and published Thursday by the Vatican press office.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters:

Following St. Paul, we saw two things in last Wednesday's catechesis. The first is that our human history is contaminated from the beginning by the abuse of created freedom, which attempts to emancipate itself from the Divine Will. And true freedom is not found like this, but is opposed to truth and, consequently, falsifies our human realities. Above all it falsifies fundamental relationships: the relationship with God, the relationship between man and woman, and the relationship between man and the earth. We have said that this contamination of our history is spread throughout its fabric, and that this inherited defect has increased and is now visible everywhere. This is the first thing. The second is this: from St. Paul we have learned that there is a new beginning in history and of history in Jesus Christ, he who is man and God. With Jesus, who comes from God, a new history begins formed by his "yes" to the Father, and because of this, no longer founded on the pride of a false emancipation, but on love and truth.

However, the question now arises: How can we enter into this new beginning, into this new history? How does this history touch me? With the first contaminated history we are inevitably united by our biological descent, all of us belonging to the one body of humanity. But how is communion with Jesus, the new birth to become part of the new humanity, realized? How does Jesus come into my life, my being? St. Paul's fundamental response, and that of the whole New Testament, is: He comes by the power of the Holy Spirit. If the first history got under way, so to speak, with biology, the second does so in the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of the Risen Christ. In Pentecost, this Spirit created the beginning of a new humanity, of the new community, the Church, the Body of Christ.

However, we must be even more concrete: How can this Spirit of Christ, the Holy Spirit, become my Spirit? The answer is that this happens in three ways, profoundly connected with one another. The first is this: The Spirit of Christ calls at the door of my heart, touches me interiorly. However, given that the new humanity must be a real body, given that the Spirit must bring us together and truly create a community, given that the characteristic of the new beginning is the overcoming of divisions and the creation of the aggregation of those who are dispersed, this Spirit of Christ makes use of two visible elements of aggregation: the Word and the sacraments, particularly baptism and the Eucharist. In the Letter to the Romans, St. Paul says: "If you confess with your lips that Jesus Christ is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved" (10:9), thus you will enter into the new history of life and not of death. Then St. Paul continues: "But how are men to call upon him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without a preacher? And how can men preach unless they are sent?" (Romans 10:14-15). In a subsequent verse he says again: "faith comes from preaching" (Romans 10:17). Faith is not a product of our thought, our reflection; it is something new that we cannot invent but only receive as a gift, as a novelty brought about by God. And faith does not come from reading, but from hearing. It is not something that is only interior, but a relationship with Someone. It implies an encounter with the proclamation, it implies the existence of the other that proclaims and creates communion.

And finally the proclamation: He who proclaims does not speak on his own, but as someone sent. He is within a structure of mission that begins with Jesus sent by the Father, passes to the Apostles -- the word "apostle" means "sent" -- and continues in the ministry, in the missions transmitted by the Apostles. The new fabric of history appears in this structure of the missions, in which we hear, in ultimate term, God himself speak, his personal word, the Son who speaks with us, comes to us. The Word has been made flesh, Jesus, to really create a new humanity. Because of this the word of proclamation becomes the sacrament of baptism, which is a rebirth by water and the Spirit, as St. John will say. In the sixth chapter of the Letter to the Romans, St. Paul speaks in a very profound way of baptism. We have heard the text, but perhaps it would be useful to repeat it: "Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life" (6:3-4).

In this catechesis, of course, I cannot go into a detailed interpretation of this difficult text. I would like to point out briefly only three things. The first: "We have been baptized" is passive. No one can baptize himself, he needs the other. No one can become a Christian by himself. To be Christian is a passive process. We can only become Christians through another. And this "other" that makes us Christians, that gives us the gift of faith, is in the first instance the community of believers, the Church. We receive the faith, the baptism of the Church. If we do not let ourselves be formed by this community we cannot be Christians. An autonomous Christianity, self-produced, is a contradiction in itself. In the first instance, this "other" is the community of believers, the Church, but in the second instance, neither does this community act by itself, according to its own ideas or desires. The community also lives in the same passive sense: Only Christ can constitute the Church. Christ is the real giver of the sacraments. This is the first point: No one baptizes himself, no one makes himself a Christian. We become Christians.

The second is this: Baptism is more than a cleansing. It is death and resurrection. Paul himself, speaking in the Letter to the Galatians of the change in his life through the encounter with the Risen Christ, describes it thus: I have died. He really begins, at this moment, a new life. To be a Christian is more than and aesthetic operation, which would add something nice to an existence that is more or less complete. It is a new beginning, it is a rebirth: death and resurrection. Obviously, in the resurrection what was good in the previous existence re-emerges.

The third element is this: Matter forms part of the sacrament. Christianity is not a purely spiritual reality. It involves the body. It involves the cosmos. It extends to the new earth and the new heavens. Let us return to the last word of St. Paul's text: In this way, he says, we can "live a new life." Element of an examination of conscience for all of us: to live a new life. This through baptism.

We now turn to the sacrament of the Eucharist. I have already shown in other catecheses with what profound respect St. Paul transmits verbally the tradition on the Eucharist received from the witnesses themselves of the last night. He transmits these words with a precious treasure entrusted to his fidelity. And so we really hear in these words the witnesses of the last night. We hear the words of the Apostle: "For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, 'This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me" (1 Corinthians 11:23-25). It is an inexhaustible text. Also here, in this catechesis, I will only make two brief observations. Paul transmits the Lord's words on the chalice thus: this chalice is "the new covenant in my blood." Hidden in these words is a reference to two fundamental texts of the Old Testament. The first reference is to the promise of a new covenant in the book of the prophet Jeremiah. Jesus says to the disciples and says to us: now, in this hour, with me and with my death the new covenant is realized; with my blood this new history of humanity begins in the world. However, present in these words also is a reference to the moment of the covenant on Sinai, where Moses said: "Behold the blood of the covenant which the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words" (Exodus 24:8). There it was a question of the blood of animals. The blood of animals could only be expression of a desire, the hope of the new sacrifice, of true worship. With the gift of the chalice the Lord gives us the true sacrifice. The only true sacrifice is the love of the Son. With the gift of this love, eternal love, the Word enters into the new covenant. To celebrate the Eucharist means that Christ gives himself to us, his love, to conform us to himself and thus create the new world.

The second important aspect of the doctrine on the Eucharist appears in the same first Letter to the Corinthians, where Saint Paul says: "The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? Because there is one bread , we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread." (10:16-17). In these words the personal and social character of the Eucharist also appears. Christ unites himself personally to each one of us, one with the other. We receive Christ in communion, but Christ unites himself also in my neighbor. Christ and neighbor are inseparable in the Eucharist. And thus we are only one bread, only one body. A Eucharist without solidarity with others is an abuse of the Eucharist. And here we are at the root and at the same time at the center of the doctrine of the Church as Body of Christ, of the Risen Christ.

We also see all the realism of this doctrine. Christ gives us his body in the Eucharist, he gives himself in his body and so makes us his body, he unites us to his risen body. If man eats normal bread, this bread in the process of digestion becomes part of his body, transformed in substance of human life. But in Holy Communion the inverse process takes place. Christ, the Lord, assimilates us to himself, introduces us into his glorious Body and so all together we become his Body. Those who read only Chapter 12 of the First Letter to the Corinthians and Chapter 12 of the Letter to the Romans might think that the word on the Body of Christ as organism of the charisms is only a kind of sociological-theological parable. In fact, in Roman political science this word of the body with the different members that form a unity was used by the state itself, to say that the state is an organism in which each one has his function, the multiplicity and diversity of the functions form a body and each one has its place. Reading only Chapter 12 of the First Letter to the Corinthians one might think that Paul limited himself to transfer this to the Church, that this was only a sociology of the Church. But keeping this 10th chapter in mind we see that the realism of the Church is very different, much more profound and true than that of a state-organism. Because Christ really gives us his body and makes us his body. We are really united with the risen body of Christ, so we are united to one another. The Church is not just a corporation as the state; it is a body. It is not simply an organization but a real organism.

Finally, I will only address a very brief word on the sacrament of marriage. In the Letter to the Corinthians there are only some notes, while in the Letter to the Ephesians a profound theology of marriage has been developed. Here Paul describes marriage as a "great mystery." He says so "in reference to Christ and to his Church" (5:32). Highlighted in this passage is a reciprocity that is configured in a vertical dimension. The mutual submission must adopt the language of love, which has its model in the love of Christ for his Church. This Christ-Church relation makes the theological aspect of marital love primary, it exalts the affective relation between spouses. A genuine marriage will be well lived if in the constant human and affective growth there is an effort to remain connected with the efficacy of the Word and the meaning of baptism. Christ has sanctified the Church, purifying it through the cleansing of water, accompanied by the Word. Participation in the body and blood of the Lord does no more than cement, in addition to making visible, an indissoluble union by grace.

And finally we hear St. Paul's word to the Philippians: "The Lord is at hand" (Philippians 4:5). I think we have understood that, through the Word and the sacraments, in all our life the Lord is at hand. Let us ask him that we might be increasingly touched in our innermost being by his closeness, so that joy will be born -- that joy that is born when Jesus is really close.

[The Holy Father then greeted pilgrims in several languages. In English, he said:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

As we continue our catechesis on the writings of Saint Paul, I wish today to consider some of the ways in which this great Apostle contributes to our understanding of the Church’s sacramental life. Baptism, he explains, is a sharing in the death and resurrection of Christ. We die to sin, and we rise with Christ to a new life of mystical union with him. Washed clean in the purifying waters, we emerge sanctified and justified, and we "put on" Christ. Through Baptism, the believer becomes a "new creature", renewed in the Holy Spirit, and incorporated through the same Spirit into the one body of Christ. In the sacrament of the Eucharist, the life of the Church is nourished and built up. Following the teaching handed down by the Apostles, the Christian community does what Jesus did at the Last Supper, when he took bread and wine, blessed them, and gave them to his disciples to eat and drink. In this way, the memory of the Passion is recalled and a foretaste of the heavenly banquet is given to God’s people as they await his coming again. The Eucharist seals the union between Christ and his bride, the Church – and in the course of a reflection on this mystical relationship, Saint Paul develops his understanding of Christian marriage. By pondering the teaching of this great Apostle, may we grow daily in our love for the Church and draw deeply from the wells of living water that she opens up for us.

I am pleased to welcome the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors here today, including groups from Australia and the United States. I greet especially the newly professed Missionaries of Charity from various countries. Upon all of you, and upon your families and loved ones, I invoke God’s blessings of joy and peace.

© Copyright 2008 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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On True Worship
"The Era of the Temple and Its Worship Had Ended"

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 7, 2009 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered during today's general audience in Paul VI Hall.
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Dear brothers and sisters,

In this first general audience of 2009, I want to offer all of you fervent best wishes for the New Year that just began. Let us renew our determination to open the mind and heart to Christ, to be and live as his true friends. His company will make this year, even with its inevitable difficulties, be a path full of joy and peace. In fact, only if we remain united to Jesus will the New Year be good and happy.

The commitment of union with Christ is the example that St. Paul offers us. Continuing the catecheses dedicated to him, we pause today to reflect on one of the important aspects of his thought, the worship that Christians are called to offer. In the past, there was a leaning toward speaking of an anti-worship tendency in the Apostle, of a "spiritualization" of the idea of worship. Today we better understand that St. Paul sees in the cross of Christ a historical change, which transforms and radically renews the reality of worship. There are above all three passages from the Letter to the Romans in which this new vision of worship is presented.

1. In Romans 3:25, after having spoken of the "redemption brought about by Christ Jesus," Paul goes on with a formula that is mysterious to us, saying: God "set [him] forth as an expiation, through faith, by his blood." With this expression that is quite strange for us -- "instrument of expiation" -- St. Paul refers to the so-called propitiatory of the ancient temple, that is, the lid of the ark of the covenant, which was considered a point of contact between God and man, the point of the mysterious presence of God in the world of man. This "propitiatory," on the great day of reconciliation -- Yom Kippur -- was sprinkled with the blood of sacrificed animals, blood that symbolically put the sins of the past year in contact with God, and thus, the sins hurled to the abyss of the divine will were almost absorbed by the strength of God, overcome, pardoned. Life began anew.

St. Paul makes reference to this rite and says: This rite was the expression of the desire that all our faults could really be put in the abyss of divine mercy and thus made to disappear. But with the blood of animals, this process was not fulfilled. A more real contact between human fault and divine love was necessary. This contact has taken place with the cross of Christ. Christ, Son of God, who has become true man, has assumed in himself all our faults. He himself is the place of contact between human misery and divine mercy; in his heart, the sad multitude of evil carried out by humanity is undone, and life is renewed.

Revealing this change, St. Paul tells us: With the cross of Christ -- the supreme act of divine love, converted into human love -- the ancient worship with the sacrifice of animals in the temple of Jerusalem has ended. This symbolic worship, worship of desire, has now been replaced by real worship: the love of God incarnated in Christ and taken to its fullness in the death on the cross. Therefore, this is not a spiritualization of the real worship, but on the contrary, this is the real worship, the true divine-human love, that replaces the symbolic and provisional worship. The cross of Christ, his love with flesh and blood, is the real worship, corresponding to the reality of God and man. Already before the external destruction of the temple, for Paul, the era of the temple and its worship had ended: Paul is found here in perfect consonance with the words of Jesus, who had announced the end of the temple and announced another temple "not made by human hands" -- the temple of his risen body (cf. Mark 14:58; John 2:19 ff). This is the first passage.

2. The second passage about which I would like to speak today is found in the first verse of Chapter 12 of the Letter to the Romans. We have heard it and I repeat it once again: "I urge you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship."

In these words, an apparent paradox is verified: While sacrifice demands as a norm the death of the victim, Paul makes reference to the life of the Christian. The expression "offer your bodies," united to the successive concept of sacrifice, takes on the worship nuance of "give in oblation, offer." The exhortation to "offer your bodies" refers to the whole person; in fact, in Romans 6:13, [Paul] makes the invitation to "present yourselves to God." For the rest, the explicit reference to the physical dimension of the Christian coincides with the invitation to "glorify God in your bodies" (1 Corinthians 6:20): It's a matter of honoring God in the most concrete daily existence, made of relational and perceptible visibility.

Conduct of this type is classified by Paul as "living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God." It is here where we find precisely the term "sacrifice." In prevalent use, this term forms part of a sacred context and serves to designate the throat-splitting of an animal, of which one part can be burned in honor of the gods and another part consumed by the offerers in a banquet. Paul instead applied it to the life of the Christian. In fact he classifies such a sacrifice by using three adjectives. The first -- "living" -- expresses a vitality. The second -- "holy" -- recalls the Pauline concept of a sanctity that is not linked to places or objects, but to the very person of the Christian. The third -- "pleasing to God" -- perhaps recalls the common biblical expression of a sweet-smelling sacrifice (cf. Leviticus 1:13, 17; 23:18; 26:31, etc.).

Immediately afterward, Paul thus defines this new way of living: this is "your spiritual worship." Commentators of the text know well that the Greek expression (tçn logikçn latreían) is not easy to translate. The Latin Bible renders it: "rationabile obsequium." The same word "rationabile" appears in the first Eucharistic prayer, the Roman Canon: In it, we pray so that God accepts this offering as "rationabile." The traditional Italian translation, "spiritual worship," [an offering in spirit], does not reflect all the details of the Greek text, nor even of the Latin. In any case, it is not a matter of a less real worship or even a merely metaphorical one, but of a more concrete and realistic worship, a worship in which man himself in his totality, as a being gifted with reason, transforms into adoration and glorification of the living God.

This Pauline formula, which appears again in the Roman Eucharistic prayer, is fruit of a long development of the religious experience in the centuries preceding Christ. In this experience are found theological developments of the Old Testament and currents of Greek thought. I would like to show at least certain elements of this development. The prophets and many psalms strongly criticize the bloody sacrifices of the temple. For example, Psalm 50 (49), in which it is God who speaks, says, "Were I hungry, I would not tell you, for mine is the world and all that fills it. Do I eat the flesh of bulls or drink the blood of goats? Offer praise as your sacrifice to God" (verses 12-14).

In the same sense, the following Psalm 51 (50), says, " …for you do not desire sacrifice; a burnt offering you would not accept. My sacrifice, God, is a broken spirit; God, do not spurn a broken, humbled heart" (verse 18 and following).

In the Book of Daniel, in the times of the new destruction of the temple at the hands of the Hellenistic regime (2nd century B.C.), we find a new step in the same direction. In midst of the fire -- that is, persecution and suffering -- Azariah prays thus: "We have in our day no prince, prophet, or leader, no holocaust, sacrifice, oblation, or incense, no place to offer first fruits, to find favor with you. But with contrite heart and humble spirit let us be received; As though it were holocausts of rams and bullocks … So let our sacrifice be in your presence today as we follow you unreservedly" (Daniel 3:38ff).

In the destruction of the sanctuary and of worship, in this situation of being deprived of every sign of the presence of God, the believer offers as a true holocaust a contrite heart, his desire of God.

We see an important development, beautiful, but with a danger. There exists a spiritualization, a moralization of worship: Worship becomes only something of the heart, of the spirit. But the body is lacking; the community is lacking. Thus is understood that Psalm 51, for example, and also the Book of Daniel, despite criticizing worship, desire the return of the time of sacrifices. But it is a matter of a renewed time, in a synthesis that still was unforeseeable, that could not yet be thought of.

Let us return to St. Paul. He is heir to these developments, of the desire for true worship, in which man himself becomes glory of God, living adoration with all his being. In this sense, he says to the Romans: "Offer your bodies as a living sacrifice … your spiritual worship" (Romans 12:1).

Paul thus repeats what he had already indicated in Chapter 3: The time of the sacrifice of animals, sacrifices of substitution, has ended. The time of true worship has arrived. But here too arises the danger of a misunderstanding: This new worship can easily be interpreted in a moralist sense -- offering our lives we make true worship. In this way, worship with animals would be substituted by moralism: Man would do everything for himself with his moral strength. And this certainly was not the intention of St. Paul.

But the question persists: Then how should we interpret this "reasonable spiritual worship"? Paul always supposes that we have come to be "one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28), that we have died in baptism (Romans 1) and we live now with Christ, through Christ and in Christ. In this union -- and only in this way -- we can be in him and with him a "living sacrifice," to offer the "true worship." The sacrificed animals should have substituted man, the gift of self of man, and they could not. Jesus Christ, in his surrender to the Father and to us, is not a substitution, but rather really entails in himself the human being, our faults and our desire; he truly represents us, he assumes us in himself. In communion with Christ, accomplished in the faith and in the sacraments, we transform, despite our deficiencies, into living sacrifice: "True worship" is fulfilled.

This synthesis is the backdrop of the Roman Canon in which we pray that this offering be "rationabile," so that spiritual worship is accomplished. The Church knows that in the holy Eucharist, the self-gift of Christ, his true sacrifice, is made present. But the Church prays so that the celebrating community is really united to Christ, is transformed; it prays so that we ourselves come to be that which we cannot be with our efforts: offering "rationabile" that is pleasing to God. In this way the Eucharistic prayer interprets in an adequate way the words of St. Paul.

St. Augustine clarified all of this in a marvelous way in the 10th book of his City of God. I cite only two phrase: "This is the sacrifice of the Christians: though being many we are only one body in Christ" … "All of the redeemed community (civitas), that is, the congregation and the society of the saints, is offered to God through the High Priest who has given himself up" (10,6: CCL 47,27ff).

3. Finally, I want to leave a brief reflection on the third passage of the Letter to the Romans referring to the new worship. St. Paul says thus in Chapter 15: "the grace given me by God to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in performing the priestly service (hierourgein) of the gospel of God, so that the offering up of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the holy Spirit" (15:15ff).

I would like to emphasize only two aspects of this marvelous text and one aspect of the unique terminology of the Pauline letters. Before all else, St. Paul interprets his missionary action among the peoples of the world to construct the universal Church as a priestly action. To announce the Gospel to unify the peoples in communion with the Risen Christ is a "priestly" action. The apostle of the Gospel is a true priest; he does what is at the center of the priesthood: prepares the true sacrifice.

And then the second aspect: the goal of missionary action is -- we could say in this way -- the cosmic liturgy: that the peoples united in Christ, the world, becomes as such the glory of God "pleasing oblation, sanctified in the Holy Spirit." Here appears a dynamic aspect, the aspect of hope in the Pauline concept of worship: the self-gift of Christ implies the tendency to attract everyone to communion in his body, to unite the world. Only in communion with Christ, the model man, one with God, the world comes to be just as we all want it to be: a mirror of divine love. This dynamism is always present in Scripture; this dynamism should inspire and form our life. And with this dynamism we begin the New Year. Thanks for your patience.


[The Pope then greeted the people in several languages. In English, he said:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

At the beginning of this New Year, I offer all of you my cordial good wishes! In the coming months, may our minds and hearts be opened ever more fully to Christ, following the example of Saint Paul, whose life and doctrine we have been considering during this Pauline Year. Today we turn to the meaning of "true worship" as highlighted in Paul’s Letter to the Romans. In uniting us to himself, Christ, a temple "not made with human hands", has made us a "living sacrifice". Paul thus exhorts us to offer our own "bodies" – meaning our entire selves – as a "spiritual worship": not in the abstract, but in our concrete daily life. At the same time, this true worship does not come about merely through human effort. Rather, through baptism, we have become "one in Christ Jesus" (Gal 3:28), who took upon himself our human nature and has thus "assumed" us into himself. Only he has the power, by joining us to his body, to unite all people. Thus, the goal of the Church’s missionary activity is to call everyone into this "cosmic liturgy", in which the world becomes the glory of God: "a pleasing sacrifice, sanctified by the Holy Spirit".

I am pleased to greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at today’s Audience, including the groups from Finland and the United States of America. Upon you and your families I willingly invoke God’s blessings of joy and peace throughout the new year!

© Copyright 2009 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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On Christ as Head
"The Whole Cosmos Is Submitted to Him"

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 14, 2008 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered during today's general audience in Paul VI Hall.

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Dear brothers and sisters:

Among the letters of the Pauline collection, there are two, those directed to the Colossians and the Ephesians, that to a point could be considered twins. In fact, both have ways of speaking that are only found in those two, and it is calculated that more than a third of the Letter to the Colossians is found also in Ephesians.

For example, while in Colossians the invitation is read literally to "admonish one another in all wisdom, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God" (3:16), in Ephesians, it is similarly recommended to "address one another (in) psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and playing to the Lord in your hearts" (5:19).

We could meditate on these words: The heart should sing, and also the voice, with psalms and hymns, to enter into the tradition of the prayer of the whole Church of the Old and New Testament. We thus learn to be united among ourselves and with God. Moreover, in both letters is found a "domestic code," missing in the other Pauline letters, that is, a series of recommendations directed to husbands and wives, parents and children, masters and slaves (Cf. Colossians 3:18-4:1 and Ephesians 5:22-6:9).

Even more important is to see that only in these two letters is confirmed the title "head," kefalé, given to Jesus Christ. And this title is used on two levels. In the first sense, Christ is understood as the head of the Church (cf. Colossians 2:18-19 and Ephesians 4:15-16). This means two things: above all, that he is the governor, the director, the one in charge who guides the Christian community as its leader and lord (cf. Colossians 1:18: "He is the head of the body, the church.") And the other meaning is that it is as the head that he raises and vivifies all the members of the body of which he is head. (In fact, according to Colossians 2:19, it is necessary to "stay united to the head, from which the entire body, through ligaments and joints, receives nutrition and cohesion.") That is, he is not just one who directs, but one who is organically connected to us, from whom comes also the strength to act in an upright way.

In both cases, the Church considers itself submitted to Christ, both to follow his superior leading -- the commandments -- and to welcome all of the vital flow that come from him. His commandments are not just words, mandates, but are vital forces that come from him and help us.

This idea is particularly developed in Ephesians, where even the ministries of the Church, instead of being attributed to the Holy Spirit (as in 1 Corinthians 12), are conferred on the Risen Christ. It is he who "gave some as apostles, others as prophets, others as evangelists, others as pastors and teachers" (4:11). And it is because of him that "the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament ... brings about the body's growth and builds itself up in love" (4:16).

Christ in fact is dedicated to "present to himself the church in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish" (5:27). With this he tells us that the strength with which he builds up the Church, with which he guides the Church, with which also he gives correct direction to the Church, is precisely his love.

Therefore the first meaning is Christ, Head of the Church: be it in regard to the leading, be it above all in regard to the inspiration and organic vitalization in virtue of his love.

Then, in a second sense, Christ is considered not only as head of the Church, but as head of the celestial powers and the entire cosmos.

Thus in Colossians, we read that Christ, "despoiling the principalities and the powers, made a public spectacle of them, leading them away in triumph" (2:15). Analogously in Ephesians, we find that with his resurrection, God put Christ "far above every principality, authority, power, and dominion, and every name that is named not only in this age but also in the one to come" (1:21).

With these words, the two letters bestow us with a highly positive and fruitful message. It is this: Christ need not fear any eventual competitor, because he is superior to any type of power that would try to humiliate man. Only he has "loved us and handed himself over for us as a sacrificial offering to God" 5:2). That's why, if we are united to Christ, we should fear no enemy and no adversity; but, this also means that we should remain closely united to him, without letting go!

For the pagan world, which believed in a world full of spirits, mostly dangerous and against which one had to defend oneself, the proclamation that Christ is the only victor and that he who is united to Christ did not have to fear anyone, appeared as a true liberation. The same is true also for the paganism of today, because also the current followers of these ideologies see the world as full of dangerous powers. To these people, it is necessary to announce that Christ is the conqueror, such that one who is with Christ, who remains united to him, should not fear anything or anyone. It seems to me that this is also important for us, who should learn to face all fears, because he is above every domination, he is the true Lord of the world.

Even the whole cosmos is submitted to him, and to him it converges as to its own head. Well-known are the words of the Letter to the Ephesians that speak of the project of God to "sum up all things in Christ, in heaven and on earth" (1:10). Analogously in the Letter to the Colossians, it is read that "in him were created all things in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible" (1:16) and that "through the blood of his cross, he has reconciled all things for him and through him whether those on earth or those in heaven" (1:20).

Therefore, there is not, on one hand, a great material world and on the other hand, this small reality of the history of our land, the world of people: Everything is one in Christ. He is the head of the cosmos; also the cosmos has been created by him, it has been created for us insofar as we are united to him. This is a rational and personalistic vision of the universe. And I would add that a more universalistic vision than this one, it was not possible to conceive, and this converges only in the Risen Christ. Christ is the Pantokrátor, to whom are submitted all things: thought goes toward Christ Pantokrátor, who fills the apse of Byzantine churches, sometimes presented seated on high over the entire world, or even above a rainbow to indicate his comparison with God himself, at whose right hand he is seated (cf. Ephesians 1:20; Colossians 3:1), and therefore his unsurpassable role as conductor of human destinies.

A vision of this type is conceivable only by the Church, not in the sense that it wants to wrongfully take for itself that which does not belong to it, but rather in another double sense. On one hand, the Church recognizes that Christ is greater than she is, given that his lordship also extends beyond her limits. On the other hand, only the Church is classified as the body of Christ, not the cosmos. All of this means that we should consider positively earthly realities, because Christ recapitulates them in himself, and at the same time, we should live our specific ecclesial identity in plenitude, which is the most homogeneous to the identity of Christ himself.

There is also a special concept that is typical of these two letters, and it is the concept of "mystery." Once the "mystery of the will" of God is spoken of (Ephesians 1:9) and other times, the "mystery of Christ" (Ephesians 3:4; Colossians 4:3), or even the "mystery of God, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (Colossians 2:2-3).

This makes reference to the inscrutable divine design over the destiny of man, of peoples and of the world. With this language, the two epistles tell us that it is in Christ where the fulfillment of this mystery is found. If we are with Christ, even though we cannot intellectually understand everything, we know that we are in the nucleus and on the path of truth. He is in his totality, and not only one aspect of his person or one moment of his existence, he who gathers in himself the plenitude of the unsearchable divine plan of salvation.

In him takes shape what is called the "manifold wisdom of God" (Ephesians 3:10), since in him "dwells the whole fullness of the deity bodily" (Colossians 2:9). From now on, then, it is not possible to think of and adore the approval of God, his sovereign disposition, without confronting ourselves personally with Christ in person, in whom the "mystery" is incarnate and can be tangibly perceived. Thus one comes to contemplate "the inscrutable riches of Christ" (Ephesians 3:8), which is beyond all human understanding.

It is not that God has not left the mark of his passing, since Christ himself is the footprint of God, his maximum mark, but rather that one realizes "what is the breadth and length and height and depth" of this mystery "that surpasses knowledge" (Ephesians 3:18-19). Mere intellectual categories here prove insufficient, and recognizing that many things are beyond our rational capacities, we should trust in the humble and joyful contemplation, not just of the mind, but also of the heart. The fathers of the Church, on the other hand, tell us that love understands much more than reason alone.

A last word should be said on the concept, already indicated before, concerning the Church as spouse of Christ.

In the Second Letter to the Corinthians, the Apostle Paul had compared the Christian community to a bride, writing: "For I am jealous of you with the jealousy of God, since I betrothed you to one husband to present you as a chaste virgin to Christ" (2 Corinthians 11:2). The Letter to the Ephesians develops this image, specifying that the Church is not just a fiancé, but the real spouse of Christ. He, we could say, has conquered her for himself, and he has done this with the price of his life. As the text says, he "handed himself over for her" (Ephesians 5:25).

What demonstration of love can be grander than this one? But moreover, he is concerned for her beauty, not just that already acquired in baptism, but also that which should grow each day thanks to a blameless life, "without wrinkle or spot" in her moral behavior (cf. Ephesians 5:26-27).

From here to the common experience of Christian marriage, the step is a small one; conversely, it's not even clear what is the author's point of initial reference -- whether it is the relationship Christ-Church, from whose light the union between man and woman should be conceived; or if instead it is the datum of the experience of conjugal union, from whose light the relationship between Christ and the Church should be conceived.

But both aspects mutually enlighten one another: We lean what matrimony is in the light of the communion between Christ and the Church; and we learn how Christ unites himself to us thinking of the mystery of matrimony. In any case, our letter is situated almost at the halfway point between the Prophet Hosea, who indicated the relationship between God and his people in terms of a wedding that has already occurred (cf. Hosea 2:4, 16, 21); and the prophet of Revelation, who will announce the eschatological encounter between the Church and the Lamb as a joyful and indestructible wedding (cf. Revelation 19:7-9; 21:9).

There is much more to say, but it seems to me that, from what I have presented, it can be understood that these two letters are a great catechesis, from which we can learn not just how to be good Christians, but also how to come to be truly persons. If we begin to understand that the cosmos is the footprint of Christ, we learn our right relationship with the cosmos, with all of the problems of its conservation. We learn to see [the problems] with reason, but with reason moved by love, and with the humility and the respect that permits acting in a correct way.

And if we think that the Church is the body of Christ, that Christ has given himself for her, we learn how to live with Christ in reciprocal love, the love that unites us to God and that makes us see the other as an image of Christ, as Christ himself.

Let us pray to the Lord so that he helps us to meditate well on sacred Scripture, his Word, and thus truly learn to live well.

[At the end of the audience, the Holy Father greeted the people in several languages. In English, he said:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Continuing our catechesis on Saint Paul, we turn to the "twin" letters: Colossians and Ephesians. Similar in language, they are unique in developing the theme of Christ as "head" - kephalé - not only of the Church, but also of the entire universe. These letters assure us that Christ is above any hostile earthly power. Christ alone "loved us and gave himself up for us" (Eph 5:2), so that if we remain close to him, we need not fear any adversity. It was God's plan to "recapitulate" all things in Jesus "through whom all things were created", so that "by the blood of his Cross" we might be reconciled to the Father. Christ's headship also implies that, in a certain sense, he is greater than the Church in that his dominion extends beyond her boundaries, and that the Church, rather than the entire cosmos, is referred to as the Body of Christ. These letters are also notable for the spousal image they use to describe how Christ has "won" his bride - the Church - by giving his life for her (cf. Eph 5:25). What greater sign of love could there be than this? Christ thus desires that we grow more beautiful each day through irreproachable moral conduct, "without wrinkle or defect" (Eph 5:27). By living uprightly and justly, may we bear witness to the nuptial union which has already taken place in Christ as we await its fulfilment in the wedding feast to come.

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On Paul's Letters to Early Bishops
"Scripture Is Read Correctly by Putting Oneself in Dialogue"

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 28, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today in Paul VI Hall at the general audience.

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Dear brothers and sisters:

The final letters of the Pauline collection, about which I would like to speak today, are called the pastoral letters, because they were sent to unique figures among the pastors of the Church: two to Timothy and one to Titus, close collaborators with St. Paul.

In Timothy, the Apostle saw almost an alter ego; in fact he entrusted him with important missions (in Macedonia: cf. Acts 19:22; in Thessalonica: cf. 1 Timothy 3:6-7; in Corinth: cf. 1 Corinthians 4:17; 16:10-11) and afterward he wrote flattering praise of him: "For I have no one comparable to him for genuine interest in whatever concerns you" (Philippians 2:20).

According to the 4th-century Church History of Eusebius of Caesarea, Timothy was later the first bishop of Ephesus (cf. 3,4).

Regarding Titus, he must have also been very beloved by the Apostle, who defined him explicitly as "full of zeal … my companion and collaborator" (2 Corinthians 8:17,23), and even more "my true son in the common faith" (Titus 1:4). He had been entrusted with a couple very delicate missions in the Church of Corinth, the results of which comforted Paul (cf. 2 Corinthians 7:6-7,13; 8:6). Straight away, from what we know, Titus caught up to Paul in Nicopolis of Epirus, in Greece (cf. Titus 3:12) and was later sent by him to Dalmatia (cf. 2 Timothy 4:10). According to the letter directed to him, he ended up being the bishop of Crete (cf. Titus 1:5).

The letters directed to these two pastors occupy an entirely unique spot in the New Testament. It seems to the majority of exegetes today that these letters wouldn't have been written by Paul himself, and that their origin would be in the "Pauline school" and reflected his inheritance to a new generation, perhaps integrating some brief writing or word from the Apostle himself. For example, some words from the Second Letter to Timothy seem so authentic that they could only have come from the heart and lips of the Apostle.

Undoubtedly the ecclesial situation that emerges in these letters is distinct from that of the central years of Paul's life. He now, retrospectively, defines himself as "herald, apostle and teacher" of the pagans in the faith and in the truth (cf. 1 Timothy 2:7; 2 Timothy 1:11); he presents himself as one who has obtained mercy because Jesus Christ -- he writes thus -- "might display all his patience as an example for those who would come to believe in him for everlasting life" (1 Timothy 1:16).

Therefore the essence is that truly in Paul, persecutor converted by the presence of the Risen One, appears the magnanimity of the Lord for our encouragement, to motivate us to hope and have trust in the mercy of the Lord who, despite our littleness, can do great things. Besides the central years of Paul's life, the [letters] imply as well new cultural contexts. In fact, there is allusion to the appearance of teachings considered totally erroneous or false (cf. 1 Timothy 4:1-2; 2 Timothy 3:1-5), such as those who professed that matrimony was not good (cf. 1 Timothy 4:3a).

We see how modern this concern is, because today as well Scripture is sometimes read as an object of historical curiosity and not as the Word of the Holy Spirit, in which we can hear the very voice of the Lord and recognize his presence in history. We could say that, with this brief list of errors in the Letters, an outline is appearing from beforehand of that successive erroneous orientation we know by the name of Gnosticism (cf. 1 Timothy 2:5-6; 2 Timothy 3:6-8).

The author confronts these doctrines with two underlying calls. One consists in a return to a spiritual reading of sacred Scripture (cf. 2 Timothy 3:14-17), that is, a reading that considers it truly as "inspired" and coming from the Holy Spirit, such that with it one can be "instructed for salvation." Scripture is read correctly by putting oneself in dialogue with the Holy Spirit, to take from it light "for teaching, for refutation, for correction, and for training in righteousness" (2 Timothy 3:16). In this sense, the letter adds: "so that one who belongs to God may be competent, equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:17).

The other call consists in the reference to the good "deposit" (parathéke): It is a special word from the pastoral letters with which is indicated the tradition of the apostolic faith that must be protected with the help of the Holy Spirit who dwells in us. This so-called deposit should be considered as the sum of apostolic Tradition and as the standard for fidelity to the proclamation of the Gospel. And here we should keep in mind that in the pastoral letters, as in all of the New Testament, the term "Scriptures" explicitly means the Old Testament, because the writings of the New Testament either didn't exist yet or still did not form part of a canon of Scriptures.

Therefore the Tradition of the apostolic proclamation, this "deposit," is the reading key to understand Scripture, the New Testament. In this sense, Scripture and Tradition, Scripture and the apostolic proclamation as key for reading, approach and almost merge to form together "God's solid foundation" (2 Timothy 2:19). The apostolic proclamation, that is, Tradition, is necessary to introduce oneself in the understanding of Scripture and capture in it the voice of Christ. It is necessary in fact to be "holding fast to the true message as taught" (Titus 1:9). At the base of everything is precisely faith in the historical revelation of the goodness of God, who in Jesus Christ has concretely manifested his "love for man," a love that in the original Greek text is meaningfully designated as filanthropía (cf. Titus 3:4; 2 Timothy 1:9-10); God loves humanity.

Taken together, it is clearly seen that the Christian community goes configuring itself in very clear terms, according to an identity that not only stays distant from incongruent interpretations, but above all affirms its own anchor in the essential points of the faith, that here is synonymous with "truth" (1 Timothy 2:4,7; 4:3; 6:5; 2 Timothy 2:15,18,25; 3:7,8; 4:4; Titus 1:1,14).

In the faith, the essential truth of who we are appears, of who is God, and how we should live. And from this truth (the truth of the faith) the Church is defined as "pillar and foundation" (1 Timothy 3:15). In any case, it remains as an open community, of universal reach, that prays for all men of every class and condition so they come to know the truth. "God wants everyone to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth" because "Jesus has given himself as ransom for all" (1 Timothy 2:4-5).

Thus the sense of universality, though the communities are still small, is strong and determinant for these letters. Moreover this Christian community "slanders no one" and "exercises all graciousness toward everyone" (Titus 3:2). This is a first important component of these letters: the universality of the faith as truth, as the reading key to sacred Scripture, to the Old Testament, and thus it delineates a unity in the proclamation of Scripture and a living faith open to all and witness of the love of God for all.

Another typical component of these letters is a reflection on the ministerial structure of the Church. It is these [letters] that present for the first time the triple subdivision of bishops, presbyters and deacons (cf. 1 Timothy 3:1-13; 4:13; 2 Timothy 1:6; Titus 1:5-9). We can observe in the pastoral letters the joining of two distinct ministerial structures and thus the make-up of the definitive form of ministry in the Church. In the Pauline letters of the central years of his life, Paul speaks of "episcopi" (Philippians 1:1) and of "diaconi": This is the typical structure of the Church that formed in the epoch of the pagan world. The figure of the apostle himself remains, therefore, dominant, and because of this only little by little are the rest of the ministries developed.

If, as I have said, in the Churches formed in the pagan world we have bishops and deacons, and not presbyters, in the Churches formed in the Judeo-Christian world, the presbyters are the dominant structure. At the end in the pastoral letters, the two structures unite: Now appears the "episcopo" (the bishop) (cf. 1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:7), always in singular, accompanied by the determinant article "the." And together with the "episcopo" we find the presbyters and deacons. Still now the figure of the apostle is determinant, but the three letters, as I have said, are directed not now to communities, but to people: Timothy and Titus, who on one hand appear as bishops, and on the other, begin to be in the place of the Apostle.

Thus is noted initially the reality that will later be called "apostolic succession." Paul says with a tone of great solemnity to Timothy: "Do not neglect the gift you have, which was conferred on you through the prophetic word with the imposition of hands of the presbyterate" (1 Timothy 4:14). We can say that in these words appears initially also the sacramental character of the ministry. And thus we have the essential of the catholic structure: Scripture and Tradition, Scripture and proclamation, forming a whole; but to this structure that we could call doctrinal, should be added the personal structure, the successors of the apostles, as witnesses of the apostolic proclamation.

It is important finally to indicate that in these letters the Church understands herself in very human terms, in analogies with the house and the family. Particularly in 1 Timothy 3:2-7, very detailed instructions for the episcopo are given, such as: "Therefore, a bishop must be irreproachable, married only once, temperate, self-controlled, decent, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not aggressive, but gentle, not contentious, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, keeping his children under control with perfect dignity; for if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how can he take care of the church of God? … He must also have a good reputation among outsiders."

One should note here above all the important aptitude for teaching (also cf. 1 Timothy 5:17), of which we find echoes as well in other passages (cf. 1 Timothy 6:2c; 2 Timothy 3:10; Titus 2:1) and then a special personal characteristic, that of "paternity." The episcopo in fact is considered as father of the Christian community (cf. also 1 Timothy 3:15). Futhermore the idea of the Church as "house of God" sinks its roots in the Old Testament (cf. Numbers 12:7) and is found reformulated in Hebrews 3:2,6, meanwhile in another place it is read that all Christians are no longer foreigners nor guests, but fellow citizens of the saints and family members in the house of God (cf. Ephesians 2:19).

Let us pray to the Lord and to St. Paul so that also today, as Christians, we can be ever more characterized, in relation with the society in which we live, as members of the "family of God." And let us pray also that the pastors of the Church have more and more paternal sentiments, simultaneously gentle and strong, in the formation of the house of God, of the community, of the Church.

[Translation by ZENIT]

[The Holy Father then greeted the people in several languages. In English, he said:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In our catechesis on the writings of Saint Paul, we come now to the Pastoral Epistles, the two Letters addressed to Timothy and the one to Titus. Although their authorship remains debated, these three Letters, while subsequent to the central years of Paul’s life and activity, clearly appeal to his authority and draw from his teaching. Against threats to the purity of the apostolic tradition, they insist on a discerning understanding of the Scriptures and fidelity to the deposit of faith. Scripture and Tradition are seen as the "firm foundation laid by God" for the life of the Church (cf. 2 Tim 2:19), and the basis of her mission of leading all people to the knowledge of God’s saving truth (cf. 1 Tim 2:1-4). The Pastoral Epistles also reflect the development of the Church’s ministerial structures, and in particular the emergence of the figure of the Bishop within the group of presbyters. They present the Church in very human terms as God’s household, a family in which the Bishop acts with the authority of a father. Inspired by this vision, let us ask Saint Paul to help all Christians to live as members of God’s family, and their Pastors to be strong and loving fathers, committed to building up their flocks in faith and unity.

I am pleased to greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at today’s Audience, including the groups from England and the United States of America. Upon you and your families I willingly invoke God’s blessings of peace and joy!

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On Paul's Death and Heritage
"The Figure of St. Paul Is Magnified Beyond His Earthly Life"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 4, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today at the general audience in Paul VI Hall.

He concluded today his series of catechesis on St. Paul.

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Dear brothers and sisters:

The series of our catechesis on the figure of St. Paul has arrived to its conclusion: We wish to speak today of the end of his earthly life. Ancient Christian tradition testifies unanimously that the death of Paul came as a consequence of martyrdom suffered here in Rome. The writings of the New Testament do not take up this fact. The Acts of the Apostles ends its report indicating the Apostle's condition as a prisoner, who nevertheless could receive all those who visited him (cf. Acts 28:30-31).

Only in the Second Letter to Timothy do we find these, his foreboding words: "For I am at the point of being poured out like a libation, and the time of my releasing the canvas [departure] is at hand" (2 Timothy 4:6; cf. Philippians 2:17). Two images are used here, the liturgical one of sacrifice, which he had already used in the Letter to the Philippians, interpreting martyrdom as part of the sacrifice of Christ; and the seafaring [image] of casting off: two images that together discreetly allude to the event of death, and of a bloody death.

The first explicit testimony about the end of St. Paul comes to us from the middle of the 90s of the first century, and therefore, something more than 30 years after his death took place. It comes precisely from the letter that the Church of Rome, with its bishop, Clement I, wrote to the Church of Corinth.

In that epistolary text, the invitation is made to have the example of the apostles before our eyes, and immediately after the mention of Peter's martyrdom, it reads thus: "Owing to envy and discord, Paul was obligated to show us how to obtain the prize of patience. Arrested seven times, exiled, stoned, he was the herald of Christ in the East and in the West, and for his faith, obtained a pure glory. After having preached justice in the whole world, and after having arrived to the corners of the West, he accepted martyrdom before the governors; thus he parted from this world and arrived to the holy place, thereby converted into the greatest model of patience" (1 Clement 5,2).

The patience of which it speaks is the expression of his communion with the passion of Christ, of the generosity and constancy with which he accepted a long path of suffering, to the point of being able to say: "I bear the marks of Jesus on my body" (Galatians 6:17).

We heard in the text of St. Clement that Paul had arrived "to the corners of the West." It is debated whether this refers to a trip to Spain that Paul would have carried out. There is not certainty about this, though it is true that St. Paul in his Letter to the Romans expresses his intention to go to Spain (cf. Romans 15:24).

It is very interesting, in the letter from Clement, the succession of the two names of Peter and Paul, even though these will be inverted in the testimony of Eusebius of Caesarea in the fourth century. When speaking of the Emperor Nero he wrote: "During his reign Paul was beheaded precisely in Rome and Peter was there crucified. The report is confirmed by the names of Peter and of Paul, which even today are conserved in their sepulchers in this city" (Hist. Eccl. 2,25,5).

Eusebius later would continue relating a previous declaration of a Roman presbyter by the name of Gaius, who dates back to the beginnings of the second century: "I can show you the trophies of the apostles: If you go to the Vatican or the Via Ostiense, there you will find the trophies of the founders of the Church" (ibid. 2,25,6-7).

The "trophies" are the sepulchral monuments, and these are the same sepulchers of Peter and Paul that even today we venerate, after two millenniums in the same place: here in the Vatican regarding St. Peter, in the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls on the Via Ostiense regarding that of the Apostle to the Gentiles.

It is interesting to point out that the two great apostles are mentioned together. Though no ancient source speaks of a contemporary ministry of theirs in Rome, the successive Christian awareness, on the basis of their common burial in the capital of the empire, will also associate them as founders of the Church of Rome. Thus it is read, in fact, in Irenaeus of Lyons, from the end of the second century, regarding the apostolic succession in the distinct Churches: "It would be tedious to enumerate the successions of all the Churches, we do take the very great and very ancient and well-known Church, the Church founded and established in Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul" (Adv. Haer. 3,3,2).

Let us leave aside the figure of Peter and concentrate on that of Paul. His martyrdom comes recounted for the first time in the Acts of Paul, written toward the end of the second century. These report that Nero condemned him to death by beheading, carried out immediately afterward (cf. 9:5). The date of the death varies according to the ancient sources, which place it between the persecution unleashed by Nero himself after the burning of Rome in July of 64 and the last year of his reign, in 68 (cf. Jerome, De Viris Ill. 5,8).

The calculation depends a lot on the chronology of Paul's arrival in Rome, a discussion that we cannot get into here. Successive traditions would pin down two other elements. One, the most legendary, is that the martyrdom took place on the Acquae Salviae, on the Via Laurentina, with a triple bounce of the head, each one of which caused a current of water to spring out, due to which even today the place is called "Tre Fontane" (Acts of Peter and Paul of Pseudo Marcellus of the fifth century).

The other, in consonance with the ancient testimony already mentioned, of the presbyter Gaius, is that the burial occurred "not only outside of the city, in the second mile of the Via Ostiense," but more precisely "in the field of Lucina," who was a Christian matron (Passion of Paul of Pseudo Abdias, of the sixth century).

There in the fourth century, the emperor Constantine erected a first church, later enormously amplified after the fourth and fifth century by Emperors Valentinianus II, Theodosius and Arcadius. After the fire of 1800, there was erected the current Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls.

In any case, the figure of St. Paul is magnified beyond his earthly life and his death; he has left in fact an extraordinary spiritual heritage. He as well, as a true disciple of Jesus, became a sign of contradiction. While among the so-called ebionites -- a Judeo-Christian current -- he was considered as an apostate of the Mosaic Law, already in the book of Acts of the Apostles, there appears a great veneration for the Apostle Paul.

I would like now to set aside the apocryphal literature, such as the Acts of Paul and Thecla and an apocryphal collection of letters between the Apostle Paul and the philosopher Seneca. It is important to confirm that very soon the Letters of St. Paul enter into the liturgy, where the prophet-apostle-Gospel structure is determinant for the form of the liturgy of the Word. Thus, thanks to this "presence" in the liturgy of the Church, the thought of the Apostle at once becomes spiritual nourishment for the faithful of all times.

It is obvious that the fathers of the Church and afterward all the theologian have drawn form the Letters of St. Paul and his spirituality. He has remained during the centuries, until today, as true teacher and apostle to the Gentiles. The first patristic commentary that has arrived to us regarding a writing of the New Testament is from the great Alexandrian theologian Origen, who comments on the Letter of St. Paul to the Romans.

This commentary is unfortunately conserved only in part. St. John Chrysostom, besides commenting his letters, has written of him his seven memorable panegyrics. St. Augustine owes him the decisive step of his own conversion and he will return to Paul during all of his life. From this permanent dialogue with the Apostle derives his great Catholic theology and also for Protestants of all times. St. Thomas Aquinas has left us a beautiful commentary on the Pauline letters, which represents the most mature fruit of medieval exegesis.

A true point of inflection was verified in the 16th century with the Protestant Reformation. The decisive moment in Luther's life was the so-called Turmerlebnis (1517) in which in one moment he encountered a new interpretation of the Pauline doctrine on justification. An interpretation that liberated him from the scruples and anxieties of his preceding life and that gave him a new, radical confidence in the goodness of God, who pardons everything without condition. From that moment, Luther identified the Judeo-Christian legalism condemned by the Apostle with the order of life of the Catholic Church. And the Church appeared to him as an expression of the slavery to the law to which he opposed the liberty of the Gospel. The Council of Trent, between 1545 and 1563, deeply interpreted the question of justification and encountered in the line of all Catholic tradition the synthesis between law and Gospel, conforming to the message of sacred Scripture read in its totality and unity.

The 19th century, gathering the best heritage of the Enlightenment, witnessed a new renovation of Paulinism, now above all in the plane of scientific work developed for the historical-critical interpretation of sacred Scripture. Let us set aside here the fact that also in that century, as in the 20th, there emerged a true and proper denigration of St. Paul. I think above all of Nietzsche, who poked fun at the theology of humility in St. Paul, opposing to it his theology of the strong and powerful man. But let us leave that aside and look at the essential current of the new scientific interpretation of sacred Scripture and the new Paulinism of that century.

Here is emphasized as central above all the Pauline thought of the concept of liberty: In this is seen the heart of the thought of Paul, as on the other hand, Luther had already intuited. Now, nevertheless, the concept of liberty was reinterpreted in the context of modern liberalism. And later, the differentiation between the proclamation of St. Paul and the proclamation of Jesus was strongly emphasized. And St. Paul appears almost as a new founder of Christianity. It is certain that in St. Paul, the centrality of the Kingdom of God, determinant for the proclamation of Jesus, is transformed in the centrality of Christology, whose determinant point is the Paschal mystery. And from the Paschal mystery, come the sacraments of baptism and Eucharist, as a permanent presence of this mystery, from which the Body of Christ grows, and the Church is built.

But I would say, without entering here into details, that precisely in the new centrality of Christology and the Paschal mystery, the Kingdom of God is fulfilled, the authentic proclamation of Jesus is made concrete, present, operative. We have seen in the preceding catechesis that precisely this Pauline novelty is the deepest fidelity to the proclamation of Jesus. In the progress of exegesis, above all in the last 200 years, the convergences between Catholic and Protestant exegesis also grow, thus bringing about a notable consensus precisely in the point that was at the origin of the greatest historical dissent. Therefore a great hope for the cause of ecumenism, so central for the Second Vatican Council.

Briefly, I would like at the end to still point out the various religious movements, arising in the modern age in the heart of the Catholic Church, that refer back to St. Paul. That's what came about in the 16th century with the Clerics Regular of St. Paul, called the Barnabites; in the 19th century with the Missionary Society of St. Paul the Apostle, better known as the Paulist Fathers; and in the 20th century with the multifaceted Pauline Family, founded by Blessed James Alberione; to not speak of the secular institute of the Company of St Paul.

Substantially, there remains luminous before us the figure of an extremely fruitful and deep apostle and Christian thinker, from whose closeness, every one of us can benefit. In one of his panegyrics, St. John Chrysostom made an original comparison between Paul and Noah, expressing it like this: Paul "did not place together the shafts to build an ark, instead, in place of uniting tablets of wood, he composed letters, and thus dug out of the waters not two or three or five members of his own family, but the entire inhabited world that was about to perish" (Paneg. 1,5).

Precisely still and always the Apostle Paul can do this. To tend toward him, as much to his apostolic example as to his doctrine, would be therefore a stimulus, if not a guarantee, to consolidate the Christian identity of each one of us and for the renewal of the whole Church.

[During his greetings, the Holy Father added:]

The situation in Sri Lanka continues to cause worry.

News of a worsening of the conflict and the growing number of innocent victims moves me to offer a pressing appeal to the combatants to respect humanitarian law and people's freedom of movement."

May they do everything possible to guarantee assistance for the wounded and security for civilians, and permit their urgent food and medical needs to be satisfied."

May Our Lady of Madhu, so venerated by Catholics and also by members of other religions, hasten the day of peace and reconciliation in that dear country.

[Translation by ZENIT]

[To the English-speakers, he said:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Concluding our catechesis on Saint Paul today, we look briefly at the end of his earthly life and his ongoing legacy. Though there is no account of Paul’s death in the New Testament, a strong tradition holds that he was martyred in Rome during the reign of Nero and buried along the Via Ostiense on the site of the present Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls. Saint Clement of Rome, in a first-century letter to the Corinthians, extols Paul’s patience in suffering as a model for all Christians to imitate. Paul himself alluded to his agony in sacrificial terms when he wrote: "for I am already being poured out like a libation, and the time of my departure is at hand" (2 Tim 4:6). Paul’s writings have inspired countless commentaries through the centuries. New studies continue to shed light on his character, the churches he founded and the Gospel he preached. Paul was a generous apostle and an original thinker,but not the "new founder" of Christianity, as some have claimed. By listening to his teaching, may we be strengthened in our commitment to Christ, so as to take part joyfully in the Church’s mission of evangelization!

I am pleased to greet the English-speaking visitors present at today’s audience. I particularly welcome students from the Bossey Graduate School of Ecumenical Studies in Geneva, as well as pilgrims from Hong Kong and the United States of America. God bless you all!

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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