St Paul – our example
Papal envoys to the closing of the year
of St. Paul in the Middle East encourage Christians to follow the saint's
Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, told Christians at an ecumenical service in Jerusalem to emulate St. Paul, "the model of conversion and hope."
God's revelation of Jesus to St. Paul "completely changed not only his life but his whole way of thinking. Today we would speak of a paradigm shift," Cardinal Kasper said June 29 at the Basilica of St. Stephen. "He accept(s) the loss of all things so he can gain Christ and be found in him. His only goal is to know Christ, the power of his resurrection and sharing of his suffering."
Conversion, he said, is "the beginning and enduring duty" of every Christian's life.
Converting to Jesus means "changing our criteria and parameters of discernment and judgment," he said. It also means conforming behaviors and habits to Christ and leaving behind all that which separates one from the new life of hope.
"Such hope is different from the hope of this world, narrow and self-centered. It is a hope that opens our world to a new reality, boundless and eternal, a reality that is a true freedom of all the children of God," said the cardinal, who also pointed out that St. Paul died for the faith.
"Thus a messenger of conversion and hope became the witness, the martyr of this very conversion and hope," said Cardinal Kasper. "He was a witness not only through his words and his life but also through his death."
The same day in Harissa, Lebanon, another papal envoy, Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois of Paris, called upon Lebanon's Christians to testify to their faith courageously and to persevere as a model of coexistence.
"In the Lebanese context -- pluralistic and multicultural -- you are called to be loyal to your religious traditions without fear and hesitation," the French cardinal said. "You should consider the Christian testimony as an obligation which you cannot avoid.
"By the example of his life and the light that he lit on the way to Damascus, Paul became the model of all believers of the truth of God. The Lebanese church in the middle of the Arab world and the Middle East carries this apostolic treasure and must find an ultimate reason for its vocation and its pastoral task," he added.
Five other cardinals were named by Pope Benedict XVI to preside over events in countries where the apostle lived and preached; they traveled to Malta, Syria, Turkey, Greece and Cyprus for closing celebrations.
"I am enchanted by the love of St. Paul for Jesus," said Asunta Nicoloa, 72, of Valencia, Spain, and a member of the Teresian Institute in Jerusalem. "St. Paul saved us through the knowledge of the evangelical (Jesus). The other apostles were for the Jews, but we gentiles love St. Paul. He was the apostle of the gentiles."
"What impressed me most is the very human life of St. Paul," said her colleague, Meliza Panes, 57, of the Philippines, following the service in Jerusalem. "Yet by the grace of God he was chosen to witness no other than the love of Jesus himself."