In the presence of thousands of people at St. Peter's Square, Pope Benedict XVI continued his weekly teachings on St. Paul, speaking about the central place of the Cross of Jesus Christ in Paul's preaching. The Cross should teach Christians to renounce their own "superiority" and choose love, the Pope underscored.
The Pope began by noting that Paul's "existence was entirely consumed for souls." In his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus, the Holy Father said, Paul "understood that Jesus had died and risen for all and for him also."
"Both were important," Pope Benedict explained. Jesus really died for all, and he also died for me. Once Paul experienced this love "above all in himself," he became a believer and an apostle, the Holy Father added.
For Paul, his new life in Christ was a daily experience that “salvation was 'grace'," Benedict observed. The "gospel of grace, became for Paul the only way to understand the Cross, the reason not only for his new existence, but also the message in his preaching."
The importance of the Cross had an even greater impact than a personal one for St. Paul. The power of the Cross was so great in Paul’s teaching that he saw it as having “fundamental primacy in the history of humanity," Pope Benedict asserted.
Thus, St. Paul’s belief in the primacy of the Cross guided him when he was confronted by the Church in Corinth, where disarray and scandal were present and the community was threatened by internal division, the Holy Father taught. Instead of presenting himself with words or wisdom, Paul came proclaiming the “announcement of Christ crucified."
Benedict XVI then went on to highlight how "the 'stumbling block' and 'foolishness' of the Cross," of which St. Paul, speaks are to be found "in the fact that where there seemed to be only failure, suffering and defeat, there, in reality, is all the power of God's limitless Love."
In his First Letter to the Corinthians, Paul writes, "For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength." The Holy Father explained that the Apostle Paul identifies himself with Christ who loved him and gave himself up for his sins and for those of all. This, Pope Benedict continued, "becomes the paradigm for all of us."
In Paul's Second Letter to the Corinthians, the Pontiff unfolded the way that Paul applies Jesus’ sacrifice through an "admirable synthesis" of the theology of the Cross: Christ died for all and God has reconciled us with him. This "ministry of reconciliation" is relevant for our life, as we must also renounce our own "superiority" and choose love, the Pope said.
"St. Paul renounced his own life and committed himself totally to the ministry of reconciliation, of the Cross which is salvation for us all, Pope Benedict said as he concluded his teaching on St. Paul. “This is something we must also do. We can find our strength in the humility of love and our wisdom in the weakness to renounce, thus to enter into the strength of God. ... We have to mold our lives on this true wisdom, not living for ourselves, but living in faith in the God of Whom we can all say: 'He loved me and gave Himself for me'."