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13) The Year of St. Paul
From July 2nd, 2008 – February 24th, 2009, Pope Benedict spoke at his Wednesday audiences on the topic of St. Paul. It was the Year of St. Paul as well, and that Pope Benedict would be drawn to the spirited preacher to the Gentiles was a surprise to some.
At that same homily, Pope Benedict praised the Apostle noting: “From his Letters, we know that Paul was far from being a good speaker; on the contrary, he shared with Moses and Jeremiah a lack of oratory skill. “His bodily presence is weak, and his speech of no account” (II Cor 10: 10), his adversaries said of him. The extraordinary apostolic results that he was able to achieve cannot, therefore, be attributed to brilliant rhetoric or refined apologetic and missionary strategies. The success of his apostolate depended above all on his personal involvement in proclaiming the Gospel with total dedication to Christ; a dedication that feared neither risk, difficulty nor persecution.”
The same could certainly be said of Pope Benedict…it was not his oratory skill that brought about countless conversions during his pontificate (he read his homilies and speeches right off the paper), it was the message of Pope Benedict that caused so much conversion throughout the world, and the message, as the now resigned Holy Father has noted, is not a doctrine but a person; the person of Jesus Christ.
In one of the audiences, Pope Benedict weighed in on the always controversial topic of faith vs. works. Can I work my way into Heaven, as some accuse St. James of saying, or is Faith in God all that matters, as some believe St. Paul to be saying. Pope Benedict notes:
“Often there is seen an unfounded opposition between Saint Paul’s theology and that of Saint James, who writes in his letter: “as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so faith apart from works is dead” (2:26). In reality, while Paul is primarily concerned to show that faith in Christ is necessary and sufficient, James accentuates the consequential relations between faith and works. Therefore, for both Paul and James, faith that is active in love testifies to the freely given gift of justification in Christ…this friendship influences life; if it is true it incarnates and fulfills itself in love for neighbor.”