Vatican City, 13 June 2012 (VIS) - St. Paul's experience of contemplation and the power of prayer, as recounted in his Second Letter to the Corinthians, provided the central theme of Benedict XVI's catechesis, during his general audience held this morning in the Paul VI Hall.
Paul did not respond to the voices questioning the legitimacy of his apostolate by enumerating the communities he had founded, nor did he limit himself to recounting the difficulties he had had to face in announcing the Gospel. Rather, the Pope explained, "he pointed to his relationship with the Lord, ... which was so intense as to be marked by moments of ecstasy and profound contemplation". Indeed, the Apostle says: "I will boast all the more gladly of my weakness, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me".
Thus the Apostle of the Gentiles helps us to understand "that all the difficulties we meet in following Christ and bearing witness to His Gospel can be overcome by opening ourselves trustingly to the action of the Lord. ... St. Paul clearly understood how to face and experience each event in his life, especially those involving suffering, difficulty and persecution: at the moment we feel our own weakness the power of God becomes manifest, a power which does not abandon or leave us alone but becomes our support and our strength".
"As our union with the Lord grows and our prayer becomes more intense, we too come to focus on the essential and to understand that it is not the power of our own means that creates the Kingdom of God, but God Who works miracles through our very weakness", the Pope said.
The intense contemplation of God which St. Paul experienced was, like that of the disciples on Mount Tabor, "enthralling and tremendous". Contemplating the Lord is "enthralling because He draws us to Himself, seizing our hearts and carrying them aloft to His heights were we experience the peace and beauty of His love. It is tremendous because it exposes our human frailty and inadequacy, the fatigue of defeating the Evil One who ensnares our lives".
"In a world in which we risk relying only on the power of human means, we are called to rediscover and bear witness to the power of prayer, through which we grow day by day as our lives are conformed to that of Christ", said the Holy Father. He then went on to recall the Nobel Prize-winner and Protestant theologian Albert Schweitzer who said that "'Paul is a mystic and nothing more than a mystic', a man truly enamoured of Christ and so united to Him as to able to say: Christ lives in me. St. Paul's mysticism was not founded only on the exceptional events of his life, but also on his intense daily relationship with the Lord, Who always supported him with His Grace.
"In our own life of prayer we too may experience moments of particular intensity in which we feel the Lord's presence more keenly", Benedict XVI added. "But it is important to remain constant and faithful in our relationship with God, especially in moments of aridity, difficulty and suffering. Only if we are seized by the love of Christ will we be able to face adversity, as Paul did, in the conviction that we can do all things through Him Who gives us strength".
The Holy Father went on: "The more space we give to prayer, the more we will see our lives transformed and animated by the real power of God's love. This is what happened, for example, to Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta who, in contemplating Jesus, discovered the ultimate reason and incredible strength to recognise Him in the poor and abandoned, despite her fragile figure.
"The contemplation of Christ in our life does not distance us from reality", the Pope concluded. "It makes us even more involved in human affairs, because the Lord, drawing us to Himself in prayer, enables us to remain close to all our brothers and sisters in His love".