Sunday, June 28, 2009

Discovering Paul

Earlier tonight, the yearlong celebration of St Paul's 2,000th birthday closed with Vespers in Rome's major basilica dedicated to the "Apostle of the Gentiles."

Presiding at the rites, B16 ended the global Pauline Year with a bang by making an "historic" announcement:
With “great emotion” [the Pope] announced that a recent scientific probe confirmed what Catholic tradition has always held, namely that the body of the Apostle Paul is located under the papal altar in the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls....

The Pontiff said that recently the tomb was “subject to a scientific investigation. A small hole was drilled in the sarcophagus, unopened for centuries, and a probe was introduced. It found traces of a valuable purple fabric, in linen and gold layer-laminated, and a blue fabric with linen threads. Red incense grains and substances containing proteins and limestone were also discovered. Small fragments of bone were found and radiocarbon dated by experts who did not know their place of origin. Results indicate that they belong to someone who lived between the 1st and 2nd century A.D. This seems to confirm the unanimous and undisputed tradition according to which these are the mortal remains of the Apostle Paul. All this fills our soul with deep emotion.”
And homily snips:
“In the last few decades the expression ‘grown-up faith’ has spread,” Benedict XVI said. “It is often used in relation to the attitudes of those who no longer pay attention to what the Church and its Pastors say—which is to say, those who choose on their own what to believe or not believe in a sort of ‘do-it-yourself’ faith. Expressing oneself against the Magisterium of the Church is presented as a sort of ‘courage’, whereas in fact not much courage is needed because one can be certain that it will get public applause. Instead courage is needed to adhere to the Church’s faith, even if it contradicts the mould of today’s world. Paul calls this non-conformism a ‘grown-up faith’. For him following the prevailing winds and currents of the time is childish. For this reason dedicating oneself to the inviolability of life from its beginning, radically opposing the principle of violence, in the defence precisely of the most defenceless; recognising the lifetime marriage between a man and a woman in accordance with the Creator’s order, re-established again by Christ is also part of a grown-up faith. A grown-up faith does not follow any current here and there. It is against the winds of fashion.”

A grown-up faith is the one that grows by living the truth in love (cf Ephesians, 4:15). Both are necessary because God is both. “The Apostle told us that by living the truth in love, we can make the whole—the universe—grow by aiming for Christ. . . . The ultimate purpose of Christ’s work is the universe—the transformation of the universe, of mankind’s entire world, of the whole of creation. Those who with Christ live the truth in love contribute to the world’s progress. Yes! Here it is clear that Paul is aware of the idea of progress. Through his life, suffering and resurrection, Christ was the real great leap of progress for humanity and the world. Now the universe must grow in view of Him. Where the presence of Christ grows, there is real progress in the world.”

In order for this renewal to occur it is necessary to strengthen the inner self (Ephesians, 3:16). “Men are often empty inside and thus must grasp for promises and drugs, which end up adding to their inner sense of emptiness,” the Pope explained. “This inner emptiness, man’s inner weakness, is one of today’s great problems. The inner self—the heart’s perceptiveness, the capacity to see and understand the world and man from within, with the heart—must be strengthened. We need reason enlightened by the heart to learn to act in accordance to the truth in love. This cannot be done without an intimate relationship with God, without a life of prayer. We need to meet God, something which is given to us in the Sacraments. And we cannot speak to God in prayer if we do not let Him speak first, if we do not listen to him in the word he gave us.”

In his final thoughts the Pope turned to the cosmic dimensions of the mystery of Christ, about its “breadth and length and height and depth” (Ephesians, 3:18). “The mystery of Christ has a cosmic vastness. He does not belong only to a given group. The crucified Christ embraces the whole universe in all its dimensions. He takes the world in his hands and raises it towards God . . . . In the Cross Christ’s love has embraced the lowest depth—the darkness of death—and the supreme height—God’s own nobility. He has taken in his arms the breadth and the vastness of humanity and the world in all their distances. He always embraces the universe—for all of us.”
Of course, the calendar already has its orientation for the year ahead: to observe the 150th anniversary of the death of the priestly patron St John Vianney, the Pope opened a Year of the Priest last week at the Vatican.

Intended to focus on and enhance the clergy's commitment "toward spiritual perfection" and renewal in ministry, the celebration will run through June 2010.

Getty(1); AP(2)