01/07/2009, 00.00
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Pope: proclaiming the Gospel to unite peoples

The "worship" to which the Christian is called is to honor God not in the abstract, but in daily life. At the first general audience of 2009, the wish of Benedict XVI (who apologizes for his hoarse voice) is for unity with Christ: "only if we are united with Jesus will it be a good and happy year."

Vatican City (AsiaNews) - Honoring God "not in the abstract, but in concrete daily life," "proclaiming the Gospel to unite peoples": this is the "worship" to which the Christian is called, and also the new year's wish that the pope addressed to the approximately 4,000 people present in the Paul VI hall for the first general audience of 2009: "that this year, in spite of the inevitable difficulties, may be a year of joy and peace," and "only if we are united with Jesus will it be a good and happy year."

The encounter with the faithful, in the hall where a large Christmas tree had been placed, began with the "apology" of Benedict XVI for the hoarseness of his voice. "My voice is gone, but I hope to make myself understood," he said, at which he was met with applause for which he thanked the crowd. And at the end of the long catechesis, dedicated to St. Paul's idea of worship, he again referred to the weakness of his voice, thanking the audience "for your patience."

In reality, the pope delivered the entirety of the long address dedicated to worship according to St. Paul, beginning with a few chapters from the letters to the Romans and to the Corinthians.

Accused of "spiritualism," Paul "sees in the cross an historic transformation," which gives "a new vision of worship." The coming of Jesus and his death on the cross has surpassed the ancient tradition that in particular saw, in Kippur, the "propitiation," the lid of the Ark, "thought of as a means of communication between God and men," sprinkled with the blood of animals, in expiation for sins, with which "life began again." Paul "places all of our sins in the abyss of divine mercy," and the "point of contact between human misery and divine mercy" is the cross, "the supreme act of divine love." The love of Christ and his death on the cross is true worship. So when Paul urges "to offer your bodies as a holy and living sacrifice, pleasing to God," there is "an apparent paradox: while sacrifice requires, by rule, the death of the victim, Paul speaks of it as the life of the Christian." When he says "offer your bodies," "he refers to the entire person: presenting oneself." This is "a call to glorify God in your bodies, in the entirety of everyday life."

Already in the Old Testament, after the destruction of the Temple, "the believer offered as the true holocaust his contrite heart, his desire for God." Paul "is the heir of these developments, of the desire for true worship, in which man himself becomes worship of God. The time of animal sacrifice, of the sacrifice of substitution, has come to an end, the time of true worship has come." "Jesus Christ, in his self-donation, is not a substitution, he really bears in himself our sins and our desire." "In communion with Christ, in spite of all of our shortcomings, we become true worship, an offering." And "the Church knows that in the Eucharist the sacrifice of Christ becomes present, but it prays that the community may be transformed, so that we ourselves become a reasonable offering pleasing to God."

The proclamation of the Gospel is part of this "transformation." The "missionary action" of the Church is to "build a universal Church, proclaim the Gospel to unite peoples," a "cosmic liturgy: united in Christ, the world becomes the glory of God." In the Pauline concept of worship, there is "the aspect of hope: the tendency to attract all, to unite the world, because only in communion with Christ does the world become, as we all desire, a reflection of the love of God." "This dynamism," he concluded, "is always present, it must inspire and form our lives. May we begin the new year with this dynamism."

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