Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Paul's Extraordinary Experience of Grace

“Paul had an extraordinary experience of the power of God's grace, the grace of the Paschal Mystery which gives life to Lent itself.”

Vatican City (Agenzia Fides) – In the commemorative Jubilee Year of the 2,000th anniversary of the birth of Saint Paul, the Holy Father focused on the exhortation in the Second Letter to the Corinthians: “We ask you in Christ's name: be reconciled with God” (5:20). “This invitation of the Apostle resounds as a final petition to take the Lenten call to conversion seriously. Paul had an extraordinary experience of the power of God's grace, the grace of the Paschal Mystery which gives life to Lent itself. He presents himself to us as 'ambassador' of the Lord. Who better than him to help us take full advantage of this path to interior conversion?”“The Apostle is aware of having been chosen as an example. This exemplarity status concerns conversion, the transformation of his life brought about thanks to the merciful love of God...All his preaching, and even more so, his entire missionary existence was sustained by an interior strength that came forth from his fundamental experience of 'grace'...It is an awareness evident in every one of his writings and that has served as an interior 'lever' with God was able to carry him forward, towards new frontiers, not only geographic ones, but also spiritual ones.”

“St. Paul recognized that everything in him was the work of divine grace, yet he did not forget the need to accept freely the gift of new life received at Baptism.” From here, we can see the baptismal vision of Lent: “on the one hand, it affirms the victory of Christ over sin, which was gained once and for all times with his death and resurrection; on the other hand, we are called to not offer our members to sin, that is, not to grant any victory to sin. The disciple should make Christ's victory his own, and this occurs above all with Baptism.”In order to carry out the baptismal vocation, being victorious in the struggle between good and evil, the Holy Father recalled three “useful means” that the Lord indicates in the Gospel passage of Ash Wednesday – prayer, almsgiving, and fasting – of which we find references in the “experience and writings of Saint Paul.”

In the conclusion of his homily, the Pope recalled in what the Christian vocation consists: “risen with Christ, they have passed through death and now their life is hidden with Christ in God. To live this 'new' existence in God, there is a fundamental need to feed off the Word of God. Only in this manner can we really be united to God, live in His presence, if we enter in dialogue with Him...In this as well, the Apostle is above all a witness: his letters are the eloquent proof of the fact that he lived in constant dialogue with the Word of God: in thought, action, prayer, theology, preaching, exhorting, everything in him was fruit of the Word, received when he was a young man in the Jewish faith, fully manifested before his eyes in the encounter with the dead and risen Christ, and which he preached during the rest of his life in his missionary 'career.' He was revealed the fact that God, in Jesus the Word, pronounced His definitive Word, He Himself, the Word of salvation that coincides with the Paschal Mystery, the gift of Himself on the Cross that later becomes resurrection, because love is stronger than death.”

Benedict XVI concluded his homily with this invitation: “May Lent, marked by more frequent contact with the Word of God, by more intense prayer, and by a severe and penitential lifestyle, be a stimulus to convert and to love our brothers and sisters, especially the poor and needy.” (SL) (Agenzia Fides 26/2/2009)

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