VATICAN CITY, JAN. 14, 2004 ( The great paradox of Christianity hinges on the fact that sin was the reason for the passion, death and resurrection of Christ, says John Paul II.

"My fault became for me the price of redemption, through which Christ has come to meet me," the Pope said, quoting St. Ambrose to a gathering of more than 4,000 pilgrims at today's general audience.

"For me, Christ tasted death," he added, further quoting the fourth-century Father of the Church. "Guilt is more profitable than innocence. Innocence made me arrogant, guilt has made me humble."

John Paul II dedicated the audience to comment on the canticle of vespers taken from Chapter 2 of the First Letter of Peter, verses 21 to 24, "Christ died for us," in which the Pope gave a personal account of the passion.

In the letter of Peter, who described himself as a "witness to the sufferings of Christ," the "memory of the passion is very frequent," the Holy Father told the pilgrims gathered in Paul VI Hall.

For Peter, "Jesus is the sacrificial Lamb without blemish, whose precious blood was poured out for our redemption," the Pope said. "He is the living stone rejected by men, but chosen by God as the cornerstone, which gives cohesion to the spiritual house, that is, to the Church. He is the righteous one who sacrifices himself for the unrighteous in order to lead them back to God."

The New Testament passage, full of references to the prophet Isaiah, highlights the innocence of Christ, "his exemplary conduct inspired in meekness and gentleness," the Pope said.

"The Lord's silent patience is not only an act of courage and generosity," he said. "It is also a gesture of confidence in the Father."

The Pontiff culminated his address by explaining that Christ bore the cross for our sins, "to be able to annihilate them." He added: "On this road, we too, freed from the old man, with his evil and misery, can live for righteousness, that is, in holiness."

With his meditation, John Paul II continued the series of reflections on the Psalms and canticles prayed by the Church at vespers. Previous meditations in the series are posted in the Documents (section of ZENIT's Web page.