ROME, JAN. 22, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Here is a contribution of Cardinal Walter Kasper, the president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, to the 424-page “Codex Pauli” that honors the Apostle to the Gentiles.
The text was originally delivered as a homily for the closing of the Pauline Year in Jerusalem, which closed June 29, 2009. The text is titled: “Jerusalem: The New of the Resurrection.”
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Only six weeks ago, together with the Holy Father we stood and prayed here at this holy site, as we do now and as thousands of pilgrims coming from around the world have done so over the centuries. The Holy Father found the right words to interpret the unique importance and the message of this place, which is the very heart of the Church.
He said: “Here Christ died and rose, never to die again. Here the history of humanity was decisively changed. The long reign of sin and death was shattered by the triumph of obedience and life: the wood of the cross lay bare the truth about good and evil; God’s judgment was passed on this world and the grace of the Holy Spirit was poured out upon humanity. Here Christ, the new Adam, taught us that evil never has the last word, that love is stronger than death, that the future of all humanity lies in the hands of a faithful and provident God. The empty tomb speaks to us of hope that does not disappoint because it is the gift of the Spirit of life.”
The Apostle Paul, whose year we are concluding in these days, wrote to the Corinthians: “And if Christ has not been raised our preaching is useless and so is your faith” … then “your faith is futile” … then “we are to be pitied more than anyone.”
So it is good for us to come back here from time to time. Because standing and praying here in the church of Anastasis we can renew our faith in the crucified and risen Jesus Christ who is for us path, truth and life; here can be strengthened the enthusiasm of our consecration to Christ and our commitment to loving service for His Reign, His Church as his mystical body and for our brothers and sisters in this world, where injustice and suffering still prevail; here the little flame of our hope can be rekindled so that we do not give up hope that in the end love can conquer hatred and life death. Here Jesus Christ asks each of us to be a witness of his new life and a witness of reconciliation and peace to all those who live in this City of Peace.
A Change of Paradigms
The reading of the first Vespers of the celebration of the feast of Saints Peter and Paul resounds, as if it were, in some way, the calling card of the Apostle Paul, by which he meant to introduce himself to the community of Rome: “Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God” (Romans 1:1).
We could meditate a long time on each of these titles rich in meaning. But let us pause this evening above all on the name of “Paul.” It is not, as we know, his original name. He was called Saul, and it was as Saul that he was present and approved the stoning of Stephen (Acts 8:1a), whose relics are kept and venerated in this Saint Stephen’s church of Jerusalem. The change from Saul to Paul, or rather the conversion of Saul to Paul, describes all the drama of the life and the whole content of the mission of this Apostle. Hence it is fitting this evening, in this place where we find ourselves, to begin to celebrate the feast of the Apostle Paul, to reflect and meditate on this change and on this conversion.
The Acts of the Apostles speaks about it three times in a concrete and very dramatic manner, while Paul himself alludes to it only once, in a very brief way in the Letter to the Galatians. He expresses the essential in just one phrase: “But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and had called me through his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles” (Galatians 1:15). Here is the heart and true motive of his conversion: God revealed his Son to him, the risen Christ. That changed and disrupted not only all his life, but all his way of thinking. Today, perhaps, we would speak of a change of paradigms.
Paul himself admits in the Letter to the Philippians: “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” Paul goes so far as to say that because of Christ, he accepts the loss of everything in order to gain Christ and to be found in him. He now has but one end: to know Christ, to know the power of the resurrection and to share in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that if possible he may attain the resurrection from the dead (Philippians 3:7-11).
This affirmation helps us to understand all of Paul’s titles that we mentioned above: “Servant of Christ, Apostle by vocation.” By this description of himself, Paul makes us access the content of his Gospel of God: Jesus Christ was “designated Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead” (Romans 1:4).
By this self-description and by his message, Paul becomes for us not only the messenger but also the model of conversion and of hope. Conversion is for every Christian, that is, for us, the beginning and the permanent duty of our Christian existence. To be converted to Jesus Christ means to change our criteria and parameters of thinking and judgment, which means to conform our behavior and our habits to the model that Jesus is, which means to live with him and in him, to leave behind all that impedes us from living this new life which is a life in the hope of a reality that is not of this world but that opens the reality of this world — so circumscribed and so enclosed on itself — to a new reality, unlimited, immense and eternal, to a reality which is the true freedom of children, of sons and daughters of God.
Paul, who saw and attended the martyrdom of Stephen in Jerusalem, at the end of his life also suffered martyrdom in Rome. Thus the messenger of conversion and of hope became the witness, which in ancient Greek means martyr. He witnesses not only in words, not only by his life but also by his death. Hence he went so far as to realize by his death what his “calling card” proclaimed at the beginning of his Letter to the Romans. He truly became an exemplary witness of hope, who according to the Apostle, bears a name: the name of Jesus Christ, who is for us, as he was for Paul, the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6).
Card. Walter Kasper
President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity
Homily for the closing of the Pauline Year in Jerusalem