Pope Benedict XVI- General Audiences
Paul of Tarsus: "He Lives From Christ and With Christ"
H.H. Benedict XVI
November 8, 2006
In the earlier catechesis, two weeks ago, I attempted to sketch the
essential lines of the Apostle Paul's biography. We have seen how the
encounter with Christ on the road to Damascus literally revolutionized
his life. Christ became his reason for being and the profound motive of
all his apostolic work.
In his letters, after the name of God, which appears over 500 times, the
name most often mentioned is that of Christ -- 380 times. Therefore, it
is important that we realize how Jesus Christ can influence a person's
life and, hence, also our own life. In fact, Jesus Christ is the apex of
the history of salvation and therefore the true discriminating point in
the dialogue with other religions.
On seeing Paul's example, we can thus formulate the basic question: How
does the human being's encounter with Christ take place? In what does
the relationship that stems from it consist? The answer Paul gives can
be understood in two ways.
In the first place, Paul helps us to understand the fundamental and
irreplaceable value of faith. In the Letter to the Romans, he writes:
"For we hold that a man is justified by faith apart from works of law"
(3:28). And in the Letter to the Galatians: "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 Jesus
Christ, and not by works of the law, because by works of the law shall
no one be justified" (2:16).
"To be justified" means to be made righteous, that is, to be received by
the merciful justice of God, and enter into communion with him and
therefore to be able to establish a much more authentic relationship
with all our brothers: and this in virtue of a total forgiveness of our
Paul says with all clarity that this condition of life does not depend
on our possible good works, but on the pure grace of God: We "are
justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in
Christ Jesus" (Romans 3:24).
With these words, Paul expresses the fundamental content of his
conversion, the new direction his life took as a result of his encounter
with the Risen Christ. Before his conversion, Paul was not a man
estranged from God or his law. On the contrary, he was observant, with
an observance that bordered on fanaticism.
However, in the light of the encounter with Christ, he understood that
with this he only sought to make himself, his own righteousness, and
with all that righteousness he had lived only for himself. He understood
that his life needed absolutely a new orientation. And he expresses this
new orientation thus: "The life I now live in the flesh I live by faith
in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me" (Galatians
Paul, therefore, no longer lives for himself, for his own righteousness.
He lives from Christ and with Christ: Giving himself, he no longer seeks
or makes himself. This is the new righteousness, the new orientation
that the Lord has given us, which gives us faith. Before the cross of
Christ, highest expression of his self-giving, there is no longer any
one who can glory in himself, in his own righteousness!
On another occasion, Paul echoing Jeremiah, clarifies his thought: "Let
him who boasts, boast of the Lord" (1 Corinthians 1:31; Jeremiah 9:22f);
or also: "But far be it from me to glory except in the cross of our Lord
Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the
world!" (Galatians 6:14).
On reflecting what it means not to justify oneself by works but by
faith, we have come to the second element that defines the Christian
identity described by St. Paul in his own life. Christian identity which
is made up in fact of two elements: not to seek oneself, but to be
clothed in Christ and to give oneself with Christ, and in this way
participate personally in the life of Christ himself to the point of
being immersed in him, sharing both in his death as well as his life.
Paul writes this in the Letter to the Romans: We were "baptized into
Jesus Christ, we were baptized into his death ... we were buried with
him ... we are one with him ... So you also must consider yourselves
dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus" (Romans 6:3, 4, 5, 11).
Precisely this last expression is symptomatic: For Paul, in fact, it is
not enough to say that Christians are baptized, believers; for him it is
equally important to say that they "are in Christ Jesus" (cf. also
Romans 8:1, 2, 39; 12:5; 16:3,7,10; 1 Corinthians 1:2,3, etc.).
On other occasions he inverts the terms and writes that "Christ is in
us/you" (Romans 8:10; 2 Corinthians 13:5) or "in me" (Galatians 2:20).
This mutual understanding between Christ and the Christian,
characteristic of Paul's teaching, completes his reflection on faith.
Faith, in fact, although it unites us intimately to Christ, underlines
the distinction between us and him.
However, according to Paul, the Christian's life also has an element
which we could call "mystical," as it entails losing ourselves in Christ
and Christ in us. In this connection, the Apostle goes so far as to
describe our sufferings as the "sufferings of Christ in us" (2
Corinthians 1:5), so that we always carry "in the body the death of
Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies"
(2 Corinthians 4:10).
We must apply all this to our daily life following the example of Paul
who always lived with this great spiritual horizon. On one hand, faith
must keep us in a constant attitude of humility before God, more than
that, of adoration and praise in relation to him. In fact, what we are
as Christians we owe only to him and to his grace. Given that nothing
and no one can take his place, it is necessary therefore that we render
to nothing and no one the homage we render to him. No idol must
contaminate our spiritual universe; otherwise, instead of enjoying the
freedom attained we will again fall into a humiliating slavery. On the
other hand, our radical belonging to Christ and the fact that "we are in
him" must infuse in us an attitude of complete confidence and immense
In short, we must exclaim with St. Paul: "If God is for us, who is
against us?" (Romans 8:39). Our Christian life, therefore, is based on
the most stable and sure rock imaginable. From it we draw all our
energy, as the Apostle in fact writes: "I can do all things in him who
strengthens me" (Philippians 4:13).
Let us therefore face our lives, with its joys and sorrows, supported by
these great sentiments that Paul offers us. Experiencing this, we can
understand that what the Apostle himself writes is true: "I know whom I
have believed, and I am sure that he is able to guard until that day
what has been entrusted to me," that is, until the definitive day (2
Timothy 1:12) of our encounter with Christ, judge, savior of the world
and of us.
[Translation by ZENIT]
[At the end of the audience, the Holy Father greeted pilgrims in several
languages. In English, he said:]
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
In our catechesis today we continue our reflection on the Apostle Paul
and his dramatic conversion to Christ. As a result of this experience,
Christ became Paul's very life and the inspiration of all his apostolic
labors. By his words and example, Paul teaches us that through faith we
are made "righteous" before God; we encounter his merciful justice,
enter into fellowship with him and are enabled to build a more authentic
relationship with others. Our justification is pure grace, an unmerited
gift of God's radical love manifested in the Cross and Resurrection of
Like Abraham, whose faith in God was credited to him as righteousness
(cf. Romans 4:3), we are justified by grace and not by our own works;
hence, our only boast must be in the Lord! Through faith and Baptism, we
share in the Lord's death and rising to new life; we now live "in
Christ," just as he lives "in us," in a mystical union which does not
dissolve the distinction between him and us. Saint Paul's example shows
us that faith must be expressed in a daily life marked by humble
adoration and praise of God, constant gratitude for his mercy, and a
spirit of joyful trust in his gracious love, revealed to the world in
Christ Jesus his Son.
I am pleased to greet the young people of different nations and
religious traditions who recently gathered in Assisi to commemorate the
twentieth anniversary of the Inter-Religious Meeting of Prayer for Peace
desired by my predecessor, Pope John Paul II. I thank the various
religious leaders who enabled them to take part in this event, and the
Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue which organized it.
Dear young friends: our world urgently needs peace! The Assisi meeting
emphasized the power of prayer in building peace. Genuine prayer
transforms hearts, opens us to dialogue, understanding and
reconciliation, and breaks down the walls erected by violence, hatred
and revenge. May you now return to your own religious communities as
witnesses to "the spirit of Assisi," messengers of that peace which is
God's gracious gift, and living signs of hope for our world.
I also offer a warm welcome to all the English-speaking visitors present
at today's Audience. Following the example of Saint Paul, may your
pilgrimage to Rome renew your faith and your love for our Lord. May God
bless you all!
[English original issued by the Vatican]
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