one month after completing a catechetical cycle begun years ago by his
predecessor John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI today began his own series
of catechesis, which will focus on the mystical relationship between
Christ and the Church--left in the hands of the Apostles.
The Holy Father announced the new theme during his general audience today, during which some 30,000 people had gathered in St. Peter’s Square to hear him.
"The Church”, he began, “was constituted upon the foundation of the Apostles as a community of faith, hope and charity."
This project of God, he continued, began "when certain fishermen in Galilee met Jesus, and allowed themselves to be conquered ... by his invitation: ... 'Follow me and I will make you fishers of men'."
Benedict told the crowd that "after Mary, pure reflection of the light of Christ, it is the Apostles, their word and their testimony, that convey the truth of Christ to us.
“Yet theirs”, he said, “is not an isolated mission, it is part of a mystery of communion, one that involves the entire People of God and takes place in stages, from the old to the new Covenant."
The Pope pointed out that Jesus' message "is completely misunderstood" if it is separated "from the context of the faith and hope of the chosen people." This, he said, is because "Jesus addressed Himself first of all to Israel in order to 'gather them' together in the eschatological time that had arrived with Him.”
“Jesus' preaching,” he said, “like John's, is both a call of grace and a sign of contradiction and judgment for the entire people of God."
Benedict continued, saying that although the preaching of Jesus is "always a call to individual conversion, ... to interpret Christ's announcement of the Kingdom in individualistic terms would be unilateral and groundless," because in biblical tradition and despite its novelty, "it is clear that the entire mission of the Son-made-flesh has a community goal."
He went on to point out that the choice of twelve Apostles is a number that recalls the tribes of Israel. This, he said, "reveals the significance of the prophetic-symbolic action inherent in the new institution.”
“Choosing the Twelve, introducing them to communion of life with Him and rendering them participants in His mission of announcing the Kingdom, ... Jesus wishes to say that the definitive time has arrived in which God's promises are fulfilled."
He stressed that “the twelve Apostles are the clearest sign of Jesus' will concerning the existence and mission of His Church, the guarantee that there is no contrast between Christ and the Church.”
In this light, Benedict said that the slogan which became fashionable some years ago: 'Yes to Jesus, no to the Church,' is completely irreconcilable with the intentions of Christ."
"Between the Son of God made flesh and His Church there exists a profound, unbreakable and mysterious continuity, by virtue of which Christ is present today in His people, and especially in those who are the successors of the Apostles."
In February, the Holy Father completed the catechesis series begun by John Paul, which explored all the Psalms and canticles which are contained in the Church’s Liturgy of the Hours prayers.