Pope Benedict XVI- General Audiences
On St. Paul and the Resurrection
"Two Facts Are Important: The Tomb Is Empty and Jesus Really Appeared"
H.H. Benedict XVI
November 5, 2008
Dear brothers and sisters:
"And if Christ has not been raised, then empty is our preaching; empty,
too, your faith. Ö 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
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
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
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
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
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 Ö 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
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.
[Translation by ZENIT]
[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 Jesusí 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 Christís 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 todayís 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 Godís abundant blessings of
joy and peace.
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