Vatican City, Jan 7, 2009 / 09:51 am
Despite coping with a cold, Pope Benedict XVI pressed ahead with his series of audiences on St. Paul’s teachings, this time focusing on his understanding of worship in Christ. This “spiritual worship” involves the world being reunited to God through Jesus’ sacrifice, the Pope said.
Pope Benedict began his first general audience of 2009 by saying, "I hope I will be able to make myself clear despite my sore throat," which received applause from the faithful gathered in the Paul VI Hall. He also expressed his wish “that this year, in spite of the inevitable difficulties, may be a year of joy and peace. Only if we are united with Jesus will it be a good and happy year."
Launching into his examination of St. Paul’s teaching on “spiritual worship,” the Pope said that "In the past, people used to talk of an 'anti-worship' tendency in the Apostle, of his 'spiritualization' of the idea of worship.” “Today we are better able to understand how Paul saw in the Cross a historical watershed that radically transformed and renewed the reality of worship."
As he continued, the Holy Father turned to the third chapter of Paul’s Letter to the Romans. Having spoken of the redemption in Jesus, Paul continues with a mysterious formula, saying: “God set forth as an expiation, through faith, by (Jesus’) blood.”
This referred to the Jewish practice from the day of Yom Kippur when the “Mercy Seat” was “sprinkled with the blood of animals, blood which symbolically brought the sins of the last year in contact with God. The sins, thrown into the abyss of divine mercy, were absorbed by God, overcome, forgiven,” the Pope explained.
This rite, Paul says, was an expression of the desire that a person be able to really place all their faults in the abyss of divine mercy and make them disappear. This served as a necessary “point of contact between human misery and divine mercy. This contact has a place in the cross of Christ,” Benedict XVI taught.