Pauline Year: The Ecumenical Dream of Pope Benedict
Together with the patriarch of Constantinople, the successor of Peter has proclaimed a special jubilee year dedicated to another great apostle, Paul. The stated objective: "to create the unity of the 'catholica', of the Church formed from Jews and pagans, of the Church of all peoples"
by Sandro Magister
Who was Paul? And what is he saying to me today?
by Benedict XVI
In the search for the interior physiognomy of Saint Paul I would like, in the second place, to recall the words that the risen Christ addressed to him on the road to Damascus. First, the Lord asked him: "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?" To the question, "Who are you, sir?" he was given the answer: "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting" (Acts 9:4 f.) By persecuting the Church, Paul is persecuting Jesus himself. "You are persecuting me." Jesus identifies himself with the Church, as a single subject.
This exclamation of the Risen One, which transformed Saul's life, essentially contains the entire doctrine on the Church as Body of Christ. Christ did not withdraw to heaven, leaving on the earth a group of followers who carry forward "his cause." The Church is not an association that wants to promote a certain cause. In it there is no question of a cause. In it is the question of the person of Jesus Christ, who even as the Risen One has remained "flesh." He has "flesh and blood" (Lk. 24:39), as the Risen One affirms in Luke before the disciples who thought he was a ghost. He has a body. He is personally present in his Church, "Head and Body" form a single subject, as Augustine would say. "Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ?" Paul writes to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 6:15). And he adds: just as, according to the book of Genesis, man and woman become one flesh, so also Christ becomes one spirit with his followers, a single subject in the new world of the resurrection (cf. 1 Cor. 6:16 ff.).
Through all of this appears the Eucharistic mystery, in which Christ continually gives his Body and makes us his Body: "The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because the loaf of bread is one, we, though many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf" (1 Cor. 10:16 f.). With these words, it is not only Paul who is addressing us now, but the Lord himself: How could you have lacerated my body? Before the face of Christ, this word becomes at the same time an urgent request: Bring us back together again, from all our divisions. Make this a reality again today. There is only one bread, because we, although we are many, are only one body. For Paul, the description of the Church as Body of Christ is not just any kind of comparison. It goes far beyond a comparison. "Why do you persecute me?" Christ continually draws us within his Body, he builds up his Body starting from the Eucharistic center, which for Paul is the center of Christian existence, by virtue of which all, and everyone individually, can personally experience: He loved me and gave himself for me.