Sunday, January 25, 2009

On Conversion

On Conversion

"I Can Get Out of the Quicksand of Pride and Sin"


VATICAN CITY, JAN. 25, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today before praying the midday Angelus with those gathered in St. Peter's Square.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

In this Sunday's Gospel resound the words of Jesus' first preaching in Galilee: "This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the Gospel" (Mark 1:15).

Precisely today, Jan. 25, we remember the conversion of St. Paul. It is a happy coincidence -- especially in this Pauline year -- which allows us, as we contemplate the experience of the Apostle, to understand the true meaning of evangelical conversion -- "metanoia." In Paul's case some prefer not to use the term "conversion" because, they say, he was already a believer, indeed he was a fervent Jew, and so he did not go from non-belief to belief, from idols to God, nor did he have to abandon the Jewish faith to adhere to Christ. In reality, the Apostle's experience can be a model of every authentic Christian conversion.

Paul's conversion matured in the encounter with the Risen Christ; it was this encounter that radically changed his existence. That which Jesus asks in the Gospel today happened to him on the road to Damascus: Saul converted because, thanks to the divine light, "he believed in the Gospel." His conversion and ours consists in this: in believing in Jesus dead and risen and in opening up to the illumination of his divine grace. In that moment Saul understood that his salvation did not depend on good works done according to the law, but on the fact that Jesus died even for him -- the persecutor - and he was, and is, risen. This truth, which through baptism illuminates the existence of every Christian, turns our way of life completely upside down.

Converting means, for each one of us also, believing that Jesus "gave himself up for me," dying on the cross (cf. Galatians 2:20) and, risen, lives with me and in me. Entrusting myself to the power of his forgiveness, letting myself be led by the hand by him, I can get out of the quicksand of pride and sin, of lies and sadness, of selfishness and every false certainty, to know and live the richness of his love.

Dear friends, the invitation to conversion, confirmed by the witness of St. Paul, is particularly urgent today, at the conclusion of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, even at the ecumenical level. The Apostle shows us the right spiritual attitude for progress toward communion. "It is not that I have already taken hold of it," he writes to the Philippians, "or have already attained perfect maturity, but I continue my pursuit in hope that I may possess it, since I have indeed been conquered by Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:12).

Of course we Christians have not yet achieved the goal of full unity, but if we let ourselves be continually converted by the Lord Jesus, we will certainly arrive there. May the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the one, holy Church, obtain for us the gift of a true conversion, so that the desire of Christ, "ut unum sint," be realized. To her we entrust the prayer meeting at which I will preside this afternoon in the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, in which, as every year, the representatives of the Churches and ecclesial Communities present in Rome will participate.

[After the Angelus the Pope greeted the pilgrims in various languages. In Italian he said:]

Today is World Leprosy Day, which was started 55 years ago by Raoul Follereau. The Church, following Jesus, has always had special concern for those persons stricken with this disease, as the message circulated by the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry also testifies. I am happy that the United Nations, with a recent declaration of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, has asked countries to protect those suffering from leprosy and their families. For my part, I assure them of my prayers and I renew my encouragement of those who struggle with them for complete healing and good social integration.

The peoples of various East Asian countries are preparing to celebrate the lunar new year. I wish them joy in their celebrations. Joy is an expression of being in harmony with oneself: and that can only come from being in harmony with God and with his creation. May joy always live in the hearts of the citizens of those nations, which are so dear to me, and spread throughout the world!

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]

[The Holy Father said in English:]



I am pleased to greet all the English-speaking pilgrims gathered for this Angelus. Today the Church celebrates the Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul. In this year dedicated to the Apostle of all Nations, and in this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, let us implore the Lord to help us achieve the full unity of his Body once more!

Today I also wish to mention this year's Message for World Communications Day which was released on the eve of the Feast of Saint Francis de Sales, Patron Saint of Journalists. The Message concerns the new technologies which have made the internet a resource of utmost importance, especially for the so-called "digital generation".

Undoubtedly, wise use of communications technology enables communities to be formed in ways that promote the search for the true, the good and the beautiful, transcending geographical boundaries and ethnic divisions. To this end, the Vatican has launched a new initiative which will make information and news from the Holy See more readily accessible on the world wide web. It is my hope that this initiative will enrich a wide range of people - including those who have yet to find a response to their spiritual yearning - through the knowledge and love of Jesus Christ whose message of Good News the Church bears to the ends of the earth (cf. Mt 28:20)!

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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