Wednesday, September 10, 2008

On the "Apostolate"

Two days before departing for his long weekend in Paris and Lourdes -- for which the Visit Missal (en francais... et PDF) has been rolled out -- B16 continued his catechesis on Paul this morning, with a specific focus on the "A" Word:
Normally, the pope noted in addressing the 8,000 people present in the Paul VI audience hall, "in following the Gospels, we identify 12 men with the title of apostle, in that they were the companions of Jesus". "But Paul is also a true apostle". The Pauline concept of apostolate is not restricted, "he distinguishes his own case from those who were apostles before him, acknowledging their special place in the Church's life, but he calls himself an apostle in the strict sense". "Of course, at the origin of Christianity, no one traveled as far as he did by land and by sea, solely to proclaim the Gospel".

In the letter to the Corinthians, there is a clear distinction between the twelve and the others, and Paul calls himself "one untimely born", "the least of the apostles, not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am". "The metaphor of untimely birth expresses extreme humility". In the same letter to the Corinthians, there is a sort of "self-portrait of Paul's apostolic life", when he talks about the "scandal" and "foolishness" of the cross, of giving blessings in exchange for curses. But "the joy of being bearers of the blessing of God and of the grace of the Gospel is worth more".

Benedict XVI then highlighted how in the letters, there appear "three main characteristics" of being an apostle: "the first: having seen the Lord, having had an encounter with him that is decisive for one's life". In fact, "it is the Lord who makes an apostle", and this apostle needs to be in constant relationship with the Lord. "One is not an apostle by vocation, but by means of Jesus". The second characteristic is "that of being sent. The Greek word apostolos means one who is sent, dispatched, the bearer of a message". "He must act as an expression of the one who sends him, as a delegate of Jesus". "Once again it emerges that the initiative belongs to someone else, it belongs to God, in Christ". "This emphasizes the fact that the mission has been received from him". The third characteristic is "the exercise of the proclamation of the Gospel, with the consequent foundation of Churches". "'Apostle' is not an honorary title, it consumes the entire being of its subject". "This is why Paul describes apostles as coworkers of God".
With the four-day trip requiring a security force of over 9,000, in an interview today with the Italian bishops' daily Avvenire, the Curia's top Frenchman -- the former "foreign minister" and current Interfaith Czar Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran -- pointedly prodded President Nicolas Sarkozy for "more concrete action" on the rights of the church in national life.

The veteran diplomat said he expected a papal reflection on "healthy secularism" when Benedict visits the Elysee Friday for a meeting with the Catholic head of state and his recently-taken third wife, Carla Bruni.