Vatican City (AsiaNews) - In our time, as for the Greeks before us, "the criterion for opposition to Christianity is rational," the cross is "foolishness, an insult to good common sense," and St. Paul "repeatedly had the bitter experience of the rejection of Christianity because of lack of understanding," in that it is "unacceptable that God should become man, immersing himself in all the limitations of space and time, and should moreover die on the cross." In reality, the cross overturns the logic of power, and demonstrates that the power of God is different from that of men.
The "foolishness" of "accepting a God who becomes man and is defeated" to the point of death, which in reality is "salvation, because it manifests God who freely saves man," and therefore is "true wisdom," is the central content of the theology of the cross in St. Paul, of which Benedict XVI spoke today to the twenty thousand faithful present in St. Peter's Square for the general audience.
"For the logic of the Greeks, which is also the logic typical of our time," the pope said, "understanding a God who became man and was defeated, and then arose from the dead, is impossible: 'We should like to hear you on this some other time', the Athenians told Paul disdainfully when they heard him speak of the resurrection." "But why," the pope asked, "did St. Paul make the cross the fundamental point of his preaching? The answer," he said, "is not difficult: the cross reveals the power of God, which is different from human power, and especially his love." "God uses means and instruments that at first glance seem only to be weakness to us, "and the cross "reveals on the one hand the weakness of man, and on the other hand the true power of God, which is the gratuity of love."
Since this summer, the pope has dedicated his reflections for the general audience to the apostle of the Gentiles, and today he focused on the Pauline doctrine of salvation by grace, "because everything emerges from the death of Christ, and not from our works." The cross is not a "scandal," as the Jews maintained, nor "folly," as the Greeks thought, but "the revelation of the power and wisdom of God, the supreme sign of the gratuitous and merciful love of God."
Benedict XVI illustrated the situation of the Church in Corinth, in which "disorder and scandal were present to an alarming extent, and in which communion was threatened by parties and internal divisions that compromised unity." Here, Paul "presents himself not with words of wisdom, but with the cross, not with persuasive words or sophisticated arguments, but in the weakness of God." His power is not persuasive language, but paradoxically the weakness of his remarks," which rely only upon the cross. In Paul, "Jesus is risen, he is alive, he is always with him." The "scandal and foolishness lie precisely in the fact that where there seems to be failure, defeat, suffering," the cross is "the expression of the love that is true power, and reveals itself in an unexpected way."
In Paul, therefore, "the cross is fundamental in human history," "the focal point of his theology is that salvation is grace, it is bestowed." This is the "essential and primary element of his teaching." It is a matter, then, of "accepting a profound conversion in one's relationship with God," which "permits us to discover all of the power of the Spirit of God in our life." "We too must find our strength precisely in the humility of love," and "we must conform our entire life to this true wisdom, living not for myself but for faith in God": "all of us can say that he loved me and gave himself for me."