Catholic World News News Feature
Pope speaks on Jesus, crucified and risen: the central focus of St. Paul's epistles October 22, 2008
At his weekly public audience on October 22, Pope Benedict XVI spoke about the ways in which St. Paul, in his epistles, constantly called attention to "the central role of the risen Christ in the mystery of salvation."
Speaking to about 17,000 people who had gathered in a sun-drenched St. Peter's Square, the Holy Father said that unlike the Gospel writers, St. Paul did not attempt to provide a narrative of the life of Jesus. Instead he wrote to the young Christian communities about the Jesus who is "Lord, living and present, now among his people."
St. Paul is known for his proclamation that he preached Christ crucified and risen. "For the Apostle," the Pope noted, "the Resurrection is not some isolated event, separate from his death; the risen Christ is always the same Christ Who before was crucified." The Crucifixion and Resurrection as the central focus of the Pauline epistles, and identified therein as the central focus of all history.
From those events, St. Paul looked backward across the Old Testament, to the texts that "highlight the role of Wisdom before the creation of the world." From these texts, the Apostle drew his emphasis on the pre-existence of Christ, with the Father, before the creation of the world. With the Incarnation, the Wisdom of God comes into the world in human form. But just as in the Old Testament it is clear that humans can reject Wisdom, so it is possible to reject the Incarnate Word. As Pope Benedict put it, "St. Paul makes it clear that Christ, like Wisdom, can be rejected, above all by those who dominate this world."
Jesus, in coming to earth, accepts the fact that some men will reject Him. "The gesture of the Son of God is the opposite of pride," the Pope observed. "It is a gesture of humility which is the realization of love, and love is divine." This ultimate sign of humility is followed by the ultimate sign of divine power, as Christ rises to heaven.
The route of Christ's life on earth, marked by humility and capped by glory, is the route set forth for all his followers, as St. Paul says when he refers to Jesus as the "firstborn." The Pope explained to his audience that Jesus "came down to make us his brothers and sisters."
In his Letter to the Ephesians, St. Paul writes that in his plan of salvation, "in Christ God wished to recapitulate all things." The Pope concluded that Jesus "involves us in a movement of descent and ascension, inviting us to share in his humility, in other words his love for others and, hence, his glorification."