.- Speaking to the 15,000-plus people gathered for his weekly General Audience, Pope Benedict XVI considered, for the second time, the person of St. Paul. The Holy considered the profound conversion that Paul underwent and the subsequent life he lived, recognizing his total reliance on God’s grace.
The meeting with Jesus on the road to Damascus, the Pope explained, "literally revolutionized his life. Christ became his raison d'etre and the profound inspiration behind all his apostolic labors... In truth, Christ Jesus is the apex of the history of salvation and, hence, the true point of reference in dialogue with other religions."
"Paul helps us to understand the absolutely fundamental and irreplaceable value of the faith," said the Holy Father, quoting the Apostle's words: "we have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ, and not by works of the Law." Being justified, the Holy Father continued, "means being made righteous, in other words being accepted by God's merciful justice and...being able to establish a much more authentic relationship with our fellows."
In the light of his meeting with Christ, Paul, who was not a man who had lived outside the Law, understood "that he had been seeking to construct his own justice, and that with that justice he had lived for himself. He understood that it was absolutely necessary to give a new direction to his life... Before the cross of Christ, the extreme expression of His sacrifice, no one can boast of themselves, of their own justice."
"Reflecting upon the meaning of justification not by works but by faith we have come to the second defining component of Christian identity," said Pope Benedict. Indeed, Christian identity has two elements: "not seeking oneself by oneself, but receiving oneself from Christ and giving oneself to Christ," and "participating personally in Christ's own story, to the point of immerging oneself in Him and sharing both His death and His life."
"For Paul," he concluded, "it is not enough to say that Christians are baptized or that they are believers. For him, it is equally important to say that they are 'in Christ Jesus.'”
“That which we, as Christians, are, we owe it only to Him and to His grace. And because nothing and no one can take His place, then to nothing else and to no one else do we pay the homage we pay to Him. No idol must contaminate our spiritual universe. Otherwise, instead of enjoying the freedom we have acquired, we would fall into a form of humiliating slavery, the Pope concluded. “Our radical devotion to Christ and the fact that we 'are in Him' must infuse us with a sense of complete trust."