Pauline pilgrimage to Rome
Saint Paul's Basilica, June 1st 2009
1. Dear young, in the first reading you have heard the telling of a fact that, it is not exaggerate to say, has determined all West's history: the conversion of Paul.
Let's start immediately clearing up a thing, if we want to understand this story. When we speak about conversion, we think of a person who, up to a certain time, was living an immoral life, of disobedience to the law of God. And then, since that moment he/she starts living a new life, in the obedience to the commandments of God. That is the conversion is usually considered like a change of behaviour.
Well, it is not so, or aniway it was not so for Paul. When Paul 'converted', he had already been living in a big obedience to the law of God: his behaviour was faultless. But so which sense did he convert? What has really happened in him?
The first time Paul himself talks about it, the first autobiographic confession, it does it so as he suggests us the answer. He says while writing to the Galats: 'when the one who choosed me even from the matherly womb and called me with His grace, was pleased to reveal to me His Son'. What that has happened to Paul is simply this: he has met Jesus in his identity, the Son of God. He has met Him in the deepest sense of the word. While writing to the Corinthians he says he has seen Jesus our God' (Cor 9,1). What he has lived, what he has felt in that moment has been so overwhelming, it has so deeply revolutionized everything that, while writing to the Christians from Filippi, he says: 'I think everything is a loss in force of the meeting with Jesus my God' (Fil 3,8). He looses his sight, Luca tells us. If our eyes are hit by an intense light, for some istants they see no more. Paul has been like dazzled by Christ Jesus, his God, such to a point that every reality has lost any value by now: 'I think everything is a loss...'.
But maybe we are allowed to be.. a little curious and to ask Paul some questions: 'but what have you seen in Jesus so great, so beautiful, to believe that all the rest, compared, is a loss? can you, do you want to tell us something more?' The apostle satisfies us; I would say even beyond our expectations. But, to understand his answer, we have firstly to explain a word that is not so used in our language, but often used by S. Paul: 'justification'.
This word has got two meanings. A predicative meaning: a court declares innocent a person unfairly accused for a crime. A constitutive meaning: a person has committed serious crimes - we say: he/shi is a sinner - and so he/she can't be declared a just man/woman. But he/she is made just with an intervention that really wipes out the committed crimes.
Now let's listen to the answer of Paul to our questions. When he has met Jesus, he has understood that him, Paul, - as well as all the men - were sinners, but they could be made just if, in the faith, they would have accept the justification like a pure grace, obtained from the death of Jesus. More simply: he has met the love of God in Christ Jesus. And, by this love, he has been conquered: 'He has loved me and He has given Himself for me'.
If you finally asked Paul: 'but, so, who'm have you become with and after your conversion?' he would answer you: 'I am no more me; it's Christ who lives in me'. 'It is for that - the apostles continues - I have written to the galats Christians: for me there is no other boast (i.e. certainty, reason of glory) that in the Cross of God our Jesus Christ'.
2. Dear young, one remains like lost in front of such an experience and human event. But the apostle is here with you, and very simply we can ask him: 'but what do you say to me, boy or girl who lives in the west civilization?
The Apostle says to each of you two things at least.
- The Christianity that you profess is the meeting with Christ your God; it's the life lived in a deep communion with Him; it's the faith in Him. 'We perceive here something of the deep mistery which is being christians. What that constitutes our faith is not in the first place what we do, but what we receive' (Benedetto XVI).
- The Christianity is not lived individually. You - the Apostle says to us - are the body of Christ, as 'we all have been baptized in a unique Spirit to form a unique body' (1 Cor 12,13). 'Don't you know" - he says again - 'that your bodies are limbs of Christ?' (1 Cor 6,15).
Dear young, love the Church, it lead you to Christ; it's that your homeland.
The life of the Apostle has began from his meeting with Christ and - as we will see this afternoon - has finished with the supreme testimony of the martyrdom. That was the deep desire of Paul: to be separated from his body for being always with Christ. The desire of the one who loves: stay always with the Beloved.
La traduzione, non rivista dal Cardinale Caffarra, Ŕ di Stefania Floridia.