~via Asia News
St Paul, the “thirteenth apostle”, taught through his life that God should be put in the centre, and he showed how “salvation is offered to all mankind without exception” with his universal apostolate, “because God is God of all”.
Benedict XVI today announced a new cycle of catechesis to 25,000 people gathered for the general audience, since he has completed his depiction of the 12 apostles. Starting with Paul of Tarsus, he will now tackle “men and even women who dedicated their lives to the Gospel and to the Lord”.
After Jesus, recalled the pope, Paul “is the person from the beginning about who we are most informed”, both from the Acts of the Apostles as well as his letters that allow us to get to know him “without intermediaries”. “A diaspora Jew, Paul lived in the city of Tarsus between Anatolia and Syria”, a persecutor of Christians until struck by the light of Christ. Described by Chrysostom as “superior to angels and archangels” and by Dante as “vase of election”, which means, the pope explained, “an instrument chosen by God”, Paul knew the first disciples of Christ, “who put not a religion but the person of Jesus at the centre, and to him was linked the remission of sins”. But his “enlightenment and true vocation came when he encountered the Risen Lord”. For this reason, Paul “describes himself explicitly as an apostle by vocation or an apostle by the will of God”. Benedict XVI said: “From that moment, he dispensed all his energies for Jesus Christ and for his Gospel”. From here is drawn the foremost teaching of Paul, that “what counts is putting Jesus Christ at the centre of our lives, and that in the light of Christianity, every other value is found or even, if necessary, purified from possible impure matter.”
The second aspect of St Paul underlined by Benedict XVI “is the universal character of his apostolate: salvation is offered to all men without exception... The proclamation of grace destined to reconcile man with God and with others, does not concern only the Jew, it concerns all, because God is God of all”.
Highlighting the passion of Paul to spread the Gospel in every part of the world, Benedict XVI also drew attention to his sufferings and martyrdom in Rome under Nero. “He could not have faced such great trials were it not for a reason of absolute value: for him, this was Jesus Christ.” He added: “May the Lord help us to put his exhortation into practice, when he says ‘be imitators of me, as I am of Christ’”.