VATICAN CITY, OCT. 25, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Following the example of St. Paul, Christians should put Jesus at the center of their lives, says Benedict XVI.
Speaking today to a crowd of 25,000 gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the general audience, the Holy Father dedicated his address to the figure of Paul of Tarsus.
After completing a series of meditations on the Twelve Apostles, the Pope began a series on the figures of men and women of the early Church.
The Pontiff began with St. Paul, whom some call the “Thirteenth Apostle,” originally known as Saul from Tarsus, located in present-day Turkey.
Benedict XVI recounted the youthful years of the tent-maker, who had studied the Mosaic Law in Jerusalem with Gamaliel, a great rabbi of the time, and mentioned how he was scandalized by the “unacceptable” message of a man, Jesus, “crucified and risen, to whom was attributed the remission of sins.”
Because of this, the Pope said, he felt the duty to persecute Christians, and on the road to Damascus, at the beginning of the 30s, he was “overtaken by Christ,” as he himself said.
Paul does not speak of a “vision, but of an illumination, and above all of a revelation and a vocation in the encounter with the Risen One,” said the Holy Father.
“In fact, he will describe himself explicitly as ‘apostle by vocation’ or ‘apostle by the will of God,’ as if wishing to underline that his conversion was not the result of nice thoughts, of reflections, but the fruit of a divine intervention, of an unforeseen divine grace,” said the Pontiff.
He gave everything
The Bishop of Rome continued: “Henceforth, everything that before was of value to him became, paradoxically, according to his words, loss and refuse.
“And from that moment he put all his energies at the exclusive service of Jesus Christ and his Gospel.”
Benedict XVI also recounted all that the Apostle suffered in his mission: “Three times I have been beaten with rods; once I was stoned. Three times I have been shipwrecked …”
The Pope asked: “How can such a man not be admired? How can we not thank the Lord for having given us an apostle of this stature?
“Clearly, he would not have been able to face such difficult and at times so desperate situations, had he not had a reason of absolute value before which there could be no limits.”
The Holy Father said that “for Paul this reason was Jesus Christ.”
St. Paul was beheaded during the reign of Emperor Nero in Rome, around the year 67. He was buried on the Via Ostiense.