Vatican City, Nov 19, 2008 / 09:10 am
On Wednesday morning, Pope Benedict XVI continued his weekly teachings on St. Paul while speaking to the thousands of pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square. The Pontiff further explained the apostle's teaching that believers are justified by faith in Christ and by the acts that flow out of love for him.
When Paul met the Risen One on the road to Damascus, the Pope began, "he was a successful man: blameless as to righteousness under the Law." Yet "the conversion of Damascus radically changed his life, and he began to consider all the gains of his honest religious career as 'rubbish' in the face of the sublimity of his knowledge of Jesus Christ."
Turning to St. Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, Pope Benedict found that "Paul understood that until then, what seemed to him a gain, in reality, in front of God was a loss. He decided, therefore, to bet all his being on Jesus Christ." In other words, "The Risen Lord became the beginning and end of Paul's existence," the Pope taught.
With this understanding of Christ’s resurrection in mind, Pope Benedict turned to the two possible ways of being made new in Christ.
"The Letter to the Philippians," the Pope said, "provides moving testimony of Paul's shift from a justice founded on the Law and achieved by observing certain prescribed actions, to a justice based upon faith in Jesus Christ. ... It is because of this personal experience of the relationship with Jesus Christ that Paul focuses his Gospel on a steadfast contrast between two alternative paths to justice: one based on the works of the Law, the other founded on the grace of faith in Christ."
In his Letter to the Galatians, Paul further explains that even Jews who have believed in Christ Jesus have done so because it is through faith in Christ and not by works of the law that they can be justified. As St. Paul states, “by works of the law no one will be justified."
Pope Benedict then addressed the interpretation of this passage by Martin Luther, who translated it as “justified by faith alone.”
“Before returning to this point it is necessary to clarify which is the 'Law' from which we have been freed and what are the works that do not justify us,” Benedict XVI said.