The Paul VI Hall held around 5,000 faithful this morning, who listened to Pope Benedict unfold St. Paul’s teaching on the sacraments. When people receive the sacraments, he explained, they encounter the Spirit of Jesus in a way that changes their spirit and their body.
The Holy Father began his catechesis by indicating how "from St. Paul we have learned that there is a new beginning of history in Jesus Christ ... formed by the 'yes' He pronounced to the Father ... out of love and truth."
"How can we enter," the Pope asked, "into this new beginning, this new history? ... How can Jesus reach my own life, my own being? The fundamental response of St. Paul, of all the New Testament, is: by the Holy Spirit."
Benedict XVI then pointed out that the Holy Spirit "at the Pentecost created the beginning of a new humanity, a new community: the Church, the body of Christ."
The spirit of Christ "touches me within ... using two visible elements: the Word of announcement and the Sacraments, in particular Baptism and the Eucharist. ... Faith comes not from reading but from listening. It is not only an interior experience but a relationship," the Pope said.
The Holy Father then explained how the new humanity established by Christ comes into being through the Church, which the Holy Spirit established at Pentecost.
"For this reason, the Word of announcement becomes Sacrament. ... No-one can baptize himself; ... no-one can become Christian by himself. ... We can only become Christian through the meditation of others, and this gives us the gift of faith. ... Autonomous Christianity is a self-contradiction. ... These 'others' are, in the first place, the community of believers, the Church. ... Only Christ can constitute the Church, Christ is the true giver of the Sacraments."
Lest we confine the new creation brought by Christ to the spiritual realm, Pope Benedict emphasized that, "Being Christian is more than a cosmetic operation that embellishes life ... it is a new beginning and rebirth, death and resurrection. ... It is not purely spiritual but involves the body, the cosmos, and extends to the new earth and to the new heavens."
On the subject of the Eucharist, the Holy Father pointed out that St. Paul speaks of the institution of this Sacrament in his First Letter to the Corinthians, and he explained that "with the gift of the chalice of the new covenant Christ gives us the true sacrifice, the only true sacrifice is the love of the Son."
The Pope then turned to the unity that is established between the believer and Christ and the believer and the Christian community by the Eucharist.
Referring to chapter ten of the First Letter to the Corinthians in which St. Paul speaks of us becoming "one body, for we all partake of the one bread," Benedict XVI affirmed that "the realism of the Church is much more profound and authentic than that of the nation State, because Christ truly gives us His Body, converts us into His Body ... and unites us to one another. ... The Church is not just a corporation like a State, it is a body; it is not an organization but an organism."
As he finished his thoughts on the sacraments, Pope Benedict touched on the Sacrament of Matrimony, which St. Paul defines as "a great mystery."
"Married love has as its model the love of Christ for His Church," the Holy Father said.
Having a "rewarding experience of true marriage" will happen if "a constant human and emotive development remains united to the effectiveness of the Word and the significance of Baptism," he counseled. The Pontiff also spoke of how "participating in the Body and the Blood of the Lord consolidates the union and makes it visible, a union that grace then makes indissoluble."