The scandal of the cross, and its paradoxical offering of salvation was the key message of Pope Benedict’s General Audience, held today at St. Peter’s Square in the presence of some 50,000 listeners.
He challenged the faithful to conform themselves to the way of the Lord, following Christ’s example of obedience--even to death, as St. Paul says--if they are to live well, and “reap the fruits“ of salvation.
The Pope, who had been discussing the Psalms in previous weeks audiences, turned today to St. Paul’s canticle in the Letter to the Philippians, often called “Christ, Servant of God.”
In it, Pope Benedict explained, St. Paul includes a “double movement” showing the 2-fold action of God through His Son.
The first movement, he showed, highlights Christ's sacrifice "even to the humiliation of death on the Cross," while the second "reveals Christ's paschal glory which, following death, reappears in the splendor of His divine majesty."
God the Father’s exaltation of His Son, the Pope said, "is expressed not only by His enthronement at the right hand of God, but also by bestowing on Christ 'the name which is above every name,' ... the most exalted 'name,' that of 'Lord,' which belongs to God Himself."
"On the one hand,” he continued, “is the recognition of the universal lordship of Jesus Christ, Who receives homage from all creation, ... While on the other, is the acclamation of the faith, which declares Christ to exist in divine form, presenting Him as worthy of adoration."
"In this hymn," the Pope said, "the reference to the scandal of the cross ... culminates with the event of the resurrection. The Son's sacrificial obedience is followed by the Father's glorifying response, echoed by the adoration of humanity and creation. ... The plan of salvation is totally fulfilled in the Son, and the faithful are invited - especially in the liturgy - to proclaim it and to reap its fruits."
Benedict implored the people, saying: "Let us seek to ensure that our thoughts and actions conform to Jesus' sentiments."
Then, adding his own off-the-cuff remarks, he said, "If we follow this path, if our thoughts and actions conform to the Lord, we live well and follow the correct path. The tenderness of God is a great consolation to us, but also a great daily responsibility."