28 Jun 2012

Who were St Peter and St Paul? - Benedict XVI


Today’s catechesis focuses on Saint Paul’s conversion. In the Acts of the Apostles, Saint Luke recounts for us the dramatic episode on the road to Damascus which transformed Paul from a fierce persecutor of the Church into a zealous evangelizer.

In his own letters, Paul describes his experience not so much in terms of a conversion, but as a call to apostleship and a commission to preach the Gospel.

In the first instance, this was an encounter not with concepts or ideas but with the person of Jesus himself. In fact, Paul met not only the historical Jesus of the past, but the living Christ who revealed himself as the one Saviour and Lord. Similarly, the ultimate source of our own conversion lies neither in esoteric philosophical theories nor abstract moral codes, but in Christ and his Gospel.

He alone defines our identity as Christians, since in him we discover the ultimate meaning of our lives. Paul, because Christ had made him his own (cf. Phil 3:12), could not help but preach the Good News he had received (cf. 1 Cor 9:16). So it is with us. Transfixed by the greatness of our Saviour, we – like Saint Paul – cannot help but speak of him to others. May we always do so with joyful conviction!

(General Audience. September 3, 2008)


"Today, I wish to focus again on the Apostle Peter. Christ’s teachings, like all his behaviour, were difficult to accept. Many withdrew and went their separate ways. Yet, when Jesus questioned the Twelve, "Do you also wish to go away?" Simon Peter answered, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life; and we believe … that you are the Holy One of God."

In this way, Peter initiates the Church’s Christological confession of faith. Though incomplete, his faith was nevertheless authentic and open – not a faith in something, but in someone; in Christ.

Peter was not, however, free of human weakness, and in time he too betrays the Master.

The school of faith, then, is not a triumphal march but a journey marked daily by suffering and love, trials and faithfulness. Peter knew the humiliation of denial, and for this he wept bitterly. But having learned his own nothingness, he was then ready for his mission.

That mission, made possible by our Lord’s acceptance of Peter’s fragile love and launched with the words "Follow me", is marked with hope: notwithstanding his infidelity, Peter knows the Risen Lord is at his side. His long journey in faith, constantly open to the Spirit of Jesus, renders him a credible witness; one who knows the true joy that lies in Christ, the way of salvation!"

(From the General Audience of May 24, 2006)

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