Benedict XVI says that a look at the life of St. Paul reveals the deep need we have of the Gospel.

Benedict XVI says that a look at the life of St. Paul reveals the deep need we have of the Gospel.

“Because we will dedicate next Wednesday to the extraordinary event that occurred on the road toDamascus, Paul’s conversion, an essential change in his life that followed from his meeting with Christ, today we will pause briefly on the whole of his life,” the Holy Father explained.

The Pope Emeritus began by discussing scholarly theories regarding the year of Paul’s birth, generally estimated to be around the year 8 A.D.

“In fact, the celebration of the Pauline Year we are observing follows this chronology. [The year] 2008 was chosen thinking of his birth more or less in the year 8,” he said. “In any case, [Paul] was born in Tarsus in Cilicia. […] A Jew of the Diaspora, he spoke Greek although having a name of Latin origin, derived by assonance from the Hebrew original Saul/Saulos, and he held Roman citizenship. “Paul seems to be situated, therefore, on the border of the various cultures — Roman, Greek, Hebrew — and perhaps also because of this, was disposed to fruitful universal openness, to a mediation between cultures, to a true universality.”

Paul also learned manual work, Benedict XVI noted, recalling that the Acts of the Apostle say he was a tent maker, “to be understood probably as a laborer of coarse goat’s wool or linen fibers to make mats or tents.” And when Paul was 12 or 13 years old, he “left Tarsus and went to Jerusalem to be educated at the feet of Rabbi Gamaliel the Elder, nephew of the great Rabbi Hillel, according to the most rigid norms of Pharisaism, acquiring a great zeal for the Mosaic Torah.”

3 Journeys

Nevertheless, the Pope noted, “Paul passed into history more as a Christian, what is more, as anapostle, than as a Pharisee. His apostolic activity is subdivided traditionally on the basis of three missionary journeys, to which is added a fourth — his journey to Rome as a prisoner. All are narrated by Luke in the Acts.”

Benedict XVI then recounted the extent of Paul’s travels and the importance of his preaching for the early Church. He particularly noted how the apostle was key for the birth of Christianity in what would later become Europe. “[In Troas] another important event took place: In a dream [Paul] saw a Macedonian from the other side of the sea, namely in Europe, who said, ‘Come and help us,'” the Pontiff recounted. “It was the future Europe that requested the help and light of the Gospel.”

The Pope Emeritus said he would return in later catecheses to the theme of Paul’s martyrdom. “For now,” he said, “in this brief account of Paul’s journeys, suffice it to take into account how he dedicated himself to the proclamation of the Gospel without sparing his energy and facing a series of grave trials, of which he has left us an account in the Second Letter to the Corinthians.”

“We see a determination that is explained only by a soul truly fascinated by the light of the Gospel, enamored of Christ, a soul sustained by a profound conviction: That it is necessary to take the light of Christ to the world, to proclaim the Gospel to all,” Benedict XVI continued “This I think is what stays with us from this brief account of St. Paul’s journeys: to see his passion for the Gospel, and thus intuit the grandeur, the beauty, and even more, the deep need that all of us have of the Gospel. “Let us pray so that the Lord, who made Paul see his light and hear his word, and touched his heart profoundly, make us also see his light, so that our hearts will also be touched by his word and so that we too will be able to give today’s world, which thirsts for it, the light of the Gospel and the truth of Christ.”