.- Commenting on Saint Paulâs Pastoral Letters at the Wednesday general audience, Pope Benedict XVI warned Christians not to read Scripture as âa historical curiosity,â but rather, as âthe Word of the Holy Spirit.â
In his address to the 8,000 people gathered in the Paul VI Hall this morning, Benedict XVI spoke of how St. Paul emphasized the need to read Sacred Scripture "as 'inspired by' and proceeding from the Holy Spirit" in his pastoral letters, two to Timothy and one to Titus.
These Letters, the Holy Father said, refer to a situation in which "certain erroneous and false doctrines had arisen, such as the attempt to present marriage as something bad. This concern remains current today because Scripture is sometimes read as a historical curiosity and not as the Word of the Holy Spirit, in which we can hear the voice of the Lord Himself and perceive His presence in history."
Faithfulness to the deposit of faith handed on by the apostles is also insisted on in these three Letters, the Pope said. âThis so-called âdepositâ is the criterion of faithfulness to the announcement of the Gospel," he explained. According to St. Paul, Scripture and Tradition are seen as the "firm foundation laid by God" for the life of the Church.
Built upon this âfirm foundation,â the Holy Father said, St. Paul teaches strongly and decisively that the mission of the Church is universal.The Pastoral Epistles also contain "a reflection upon the ministerial structure of the Church. They present for the first time the triple division of bishops, priests and deacons."
"We have the essential elements of Catholic structure. Scripture and Tradition, Scripture and announcement form a single whole,â Pope Benedict observed. âBut to this structure, so to speak, a doctrinal structure, must be added a personal structure, the successors of the Apostles as witnesses of the apostolic announcement."
On the topic of bishops, the Pope recalled how in the Letter to Timothy the bishop "is considered as the father of the Christian community.â âThe idea of the Church as the 'house of God' has its roots in the Old Testament and is formulated in the Letter to the Hebrews. In the Letter to the Ephesians we read that Christians are no longer strangers and aliens, but citizens and saints, members of the house of God," he said.
The Pontiff concluded by asking St. Paul to help Christians to live as members of âGodâs family,â and to help their pastors to be strong and loving fathers, committed to the formation of the house of God, the community, the Church.