In continuing his catecheses about the Apostle to the Nations, the Pope offered the faithful “what Saint Paul learnt about the earthly Jesus”, his life, teachings and passion.
For Saint Paul, said Benedict XVI, there are two ways of knowing Jesus or anyone else. In the Letter to the Corinthians, he wrote that “we regard no one according to the flesh . . . .” Indeed for Paul there are two ways of knowing people. One, “knowing according to the flesh, means knowing from the outside, applying external criteria—face, form, life experiences—without knowing the real inner self, who one is. [However], one can truly and in truth know someone else only with heart.” For whilst the “Sadducees and Pharisees met Jesus, heard his teachings, learnt about his life, they never knew him.”
“What do people say about me?” Jesus asked. “But who do you say that I am?” he asked the twelve disciples. Although people know him, they do not know who he is; instead the twelve do. [. . .] This is true even today. There are people who know Jesus in almost every detail but have never met him and then there are those who do not know every detail but have met him.”
As for Paul he “is certain not to have seen or met him on earth,” but did meet him through the apostles and the nascent Church.
In Paul’s Letters there are various explicit and direct references to knowing the pre-Easter Jesus, noted the Pope, his Davidic lineage, his words about the indissolubility of marriage, and the Last Supper. Paul knows about the Sermon on the Mountain and quotes some passages almost verbatim like the one about loving one another and one’s persecutors.
In referring to Paul’s “faithful transposition” the Pope mentioned the pre-Easter tradition use of the word father. On the Mount of Olives, “before falling asleep, the disciples heard Jesus call out to his Father, abba, a word familiarly used by children, but not by Jews when they addressed God. Here as a true son Jesus speaks to his Father.” In using this word Paul says that “the baptised can turn to the Father, speak like Jesus, because they have become sons through the Son.”
For Benedict XVI another “faithful reproduction” of Jesus’ words is found when it is said that “the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve . . .” which in the Pauline doctrine sees “Jesus’ death as ransom, redemption and reconciliation.”
“We shall have an opportunity to talk about Jesus’ death as a mystery of reconciliation,” the Pope added.
In conclusion Paul “never thought about Jesus in historical terms, as someone from the past. He knew him and treated him as living reality; his words do not belong to the past, for Jesus is alive, speaks for us and lives with us.”
“This is the real way. This way we can learn to meet Jesus, not in the flesh, but as our brother who is with us, who shows us how to live.”