Pope Benedict XVI says the life and writings of St. Paul should remind all Christians that the surest guide through the trials of life is prayer.
“Paul’s prayer invites us to contemplate the unfolding of God’s saving plan in history and to discern the signs of its presence in our own lives and in the life of the Church,” the Pope said during his June 20 general audience. “In our own prayer, may we praise the mystery of our election in Christ, and open our hearts and lives ever more fully to the transforming presence of the blessed Trinity.”
Pope Benedict delivered his remarks to thousands of enthusiastic pilgrims who were gathered in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall. Continuing his weekly catechesis on prayer, he turned his attention to the “great prayer of praise and blessing” that is to be found at the beginning of St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians.
In it, St. Paul blesses God the Father for making known “the mystery of his will,” through which God “chose us in Christ,” before the creation of the world, to be his adopted children and receive a glorious inheritance. St. Paul reminds us, said the Pope, that while “our prayers are often a request for help in our hour of need,” there is also cause to give thanks to God, “because we receive so many good things” from him.
Therefore, our prayer “should also be praise, and, if we open our hearts, we come to realize that, despite all problems, creation is beautiful and good.” The Pope also reflected on the meaning of the phrase the “mystery of God" for Christians. He explained that, for Christians, this term “does not so much mean the unknown as the merciful will of God, his plan of love, which was fully revealed in Jesus Christ.”
Pope Benedict then outlined the key reasons given by the apostle for giving thanks to God, starting with his “marvelous design for humankind” that calls everybody “into existence” and “to sanctity.” “We have been in his plan and his thoughts forever,” said the Pope, noting that the vocation to holiness and communion is “part of his eternal plan, a plan which stretches over history and which includes all the men and women of the world, because the call is universal.”
St. Paul’s primary reason for giving praise to God, however, is Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, which was “the unique and unrepeatable event by which the Father demonstrated in a brilliant way his love for us, not just in words, but in concrete terms.” So concrete and tangible is this divine love, Pope Benedict explained, that “it shares not only in our life, but also in our suffering and in our death.” Finally, St. Paul looks to the future, when redemption reaches its fullness, and “those whom God has acquired will be completely saved.” In giving our “Yes” freely to God, said the Pope, each of us can “travel this road of redemption together with Christ, and, thus, redemption is fulfilled.”
In conclusion, Pope Benedict said that the example of St. Paul shows how in prayer “we grow in the love of God, opening the door for the blessed Trinity to come and dwell among us, bringing us light and warmth and guiding our lives.” The result is prayerful men and women who are “not animated by egoism, the desire to possess and the thirst for power,” but by “gratuitousness, the desire to love and serve.” In short, he said, they become people who are “animated by God,” and “only in this way can we bring light into the darkness of the world.”