Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Imitatores mei estote

"Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ" (1 Cor 11:1). These words are inscribed on one of the stained glass windows in the chapel here, with an image of St. Paul.

Today, the subject of the Holy Father's Wednesday catechesis was The Apostle. Here's a few highlights. The full text is at Zenit.

St. John Chrysostom exalts him as a personage who is superior even to many angels and archangels (cf. "Panegyric" 7,3). In the Divine Comedy, Dante Alighieri, inspired in Luke's account in the Acts of the Apostles (cf. 9:15), describes him simply as "chosen vessel" (Inferno 2, 28), which means: instrument chosen by God. Others have called him the "Thirteenth Apostle" -- and he really insists much on the fact of being an authentic apostle, having been called by the Risen One, or even "the first after the Only One."



In fact, he will describe himself explicitly as "apostle by vocation" (cf. Romans 1:1; 1 Corinthians 1:1; or "apostle by the will of God" (2 Corinthians 1:1, Ephesians 1:1; Colossians 1:1), as if wishing to underline that his conversion was not the result of nice thoughts, of reflections, but the fruit of a divine intervention, of an unforeseen divine grace. Henceforth, everything that before was of value to him became, paradoxically, according to his words, loss and refuse (cf. Philippians 3:7-10). And from that moment he put all his energies at the exclusive service of Jesus Christ and his Gospel. His existence would become that of an apostle who wants to "become all things to all men" (1 Corinthians 9:22) without reservations.



From here is derived a very important lesson for us: What matters is to put Jesus Christ at the center of our lives, so that our identity is characterized essentially by the encounter, by communion with Christ and his word. In his light, every other value must be recovered and purified of possible dross.



In fact, the Apostle will give his supreme witness with his blood under the emperor Nero here, in Rome, where we keep and venerate his mortal remains. In the last years of the 1st century, Clement of Rome, my predecessor in this Apostolic See, wrote: "Because of jealousy and discord, Paul was obliged to show us how one obtains the prize of patience ... After preaching justice to all in the world, and after having arrived at the limits of the West, he endured martyrdom before the political rulers; in this way he left this world and reached the holy place, thus becoming the greatest model of perseverance" (To the Corinthians, 5).

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