Posts tagged: St. Paul

Paul Proclaims Christ’s Divinity

By , April 12, 2014 5:49 am

April 13th, Palm Sunday

In discussing last week’s scriptures, I described that text from St. John’s Gospel as one of my favorites in the entire New Testament. Well, I am going to say that again because today’s text from St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians is able to put in front of us a statement about Jesus of Nazareth that, in one or two sentences, summarizes the totality of salvation and the reality that we see and experience from our faith in our Divine Lord. Paul is writing to the Church in Philippi and they have had their problems. That is why he needed to write the letter. But in the second chapter, he uses words that are startling, clear and definitive.

He tells you and me that we should have an attitude in life like Christ. Christ, of course, loved his Heavenly Father and was willing to make any sacrifice necessary in order to redeem the human family. Then these words leap out at us:
(Jesus Christ) “Though he was by nature God
Did not consider being equal to God a thing to be clung to
But emptied himself taking the nature of a slave.”

What an awesome statement. We should say it over and over in our morning or evening prayers. Paul is telling us what is the overwhelming reality of our spiritual journey. God has been here. God has come to us. God has been one with us. And God invites us to pass via the salvific life and work of Jesus to share eternal life with him forever and ever.

In this Holy Week, we will have a great deal of time to think about our own lives, the status of our own souls and the eternal reward that is awaiting us as we approach our own death and resurrection.

We are to be one with Jesus forever and ever.

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Let the Lord Do It!

By , March 2, 2014 4:09 am

March 2nd, Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Today’s Gospel is drawn from that of the 6th chapter of Matthew and it presents us with a beautiful scene affecting God’s love for all of His creation. In the midst of that lovely scene, we are also challenged to have faith, to be detached and have boundless hope because of God’s love for us. But that is so cheerful and I think we have to start thinking about Lent, so I would like to flip to the second reading which presents us with a couple of tough lines from St. Paul’s occasionally blistering first letter to the Corinthians.

Paul challenges the Corinthians and tells them how he should be treated. “Men should regard us (St. Paul) as servants of Christ and administrators of the mysteries of God!” I believe that this is certainly true. That was Paul’s role at that time and in that place. However, I think such a strong stark statement is a reflection of the fact that there was real conflict within the Christian community in Corinth. That, of course, is the principal reason why Paul wrote the letter. He had started the community there and continued to provide oversight, but he really wanted to be treated with respect and have them treat each other in the same way.

He then repeats to his distant parishioners that he is the administrator of Christ’s work and that requires that he be trustworthy. He reminds them that they are not to judge him; that it is the Lord who will do the judging. Naturally, from that would flow the principle that they are not to be judging each other. Evidently, rash judgment was a frequent failure in the early Church and because we are still very human, that regrettable human weakness continues to pervade our lives and our communities.

Let’s try hard to remember that it is the Lord who will be doing the judging. He is certainly better at that than we are.

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Good News for Cold Winter Days

By , February 22, 2014 5:03 am

February 23rd, Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

The people in Central Texas are used to the moaning and groaning that comes through our television sets on the evening news. Wow! What a winter they have had up north. Imagine Atlanta suddenly being completely shut down as a city and they are not even that far north! Well, we were hit pretty hard too in late December and early January and if a person were tempted to have his or her emotions affected by cold winds, gray skies and sad drizzle, they might have gone through a downer.

Not to worry! Almighty God sent us a wonderful message for the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time. Did you catch it? While you were at Mass on February 23rd, the inspired Word of God came to us through the Book of Leviticus and the sacred author challenged all of us to be HOLY and gave us a yardstick to measure that reality. He says many things but among them are, “take no revenge…cherish no grudge…love your neighbor.”

Following that, St. Paul chimes in when in his letter to the Corinthians he reminds us that each one of us is sacred, God dwells in each one of us, each one of us is God’s temple and, reaching back to Leviticus, he reminds us that God is holy and therefore we are called to holiness.

Finally, St. Matthew, in his fifth chapter, calls us to be truly loving, generous and fair, not just with our relatives and friends, not just with strangers who have not offended us, but we should manifest those qualities even to those who might be considered our enemies.

All of these statements from the Old and New Testament serve as a steady reminder of how we are to prepare ourselves in the Mass in order to join the offertory procession and move forward together towards unity with Jesus Christ and the Eucharist.

Okay, let’s get moving.

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What A Gift – What a Goal

By , February 15, 2014 5:02 am

February 16th, Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

My readers may be getting tired of my many references to the fact that the Sunday readings are a catechetical process. Think of it. All the Catholics of the world who are attending Mass on Sunday are sitting in the same Scripture class and the teacher is no one other than the Holy Spirit.

Each Sunday, the three readings or excerpts from the sacred texts form a collage with a special message. Sometimes the message is very clear. Sometimes you really have to reach for it. Today, the Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, is very clear but I must admit that you do have to reach for it.

The class carries us back to Sirach, two centuries before the birth of Jesus, and Sirach tells us that we need to live our lives according to God’s wisdom. In other words, we must make judgments that will keep us on life’s right path and protect ourselves from disaster.

St. Paul picks up the same theme while writing to the Church in Corinth and he talks in a very interesting way that God’s wisdom is “mysterious, a hidden wisdom.” However, if we live by God’s wisdom, we will have a marvelous reward because Paul reminds us that “eye has not seen nor ear heard….what God has prepared for those who love Him.” Sit and think that over quietly. Wow! How wonderful!

Matthew’s Gospel ties in as usual with the first reading and is all about good judgment – how we ought to live with each other fairly, generously and in keeping with the Commandments.

The message of today’s liturgy all ties together that we must use the two great gifts that God has given us – our intellect giving us the power to use our will, our decision making capability. All sin is is the deliberate misuse of those two awesome gifts. We must direct our mind towards God and with our will choose those things which draw us to God.

Onward towards the Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time.

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Did you Hear It?

By , January 18, 2014 5:51 am

Did you hear it? I am inquiring as to whether or not you have been listening to the fact that Almighty God is probably calling you to do good things with your life. You are being called to do things not in 2015, but right now in January and maybe even today.
The Christian community has always felt strongly that we live constantly with God. This means that we should struggle to be always aware of his presence and of his expectations of us. When we are called, gongs do not go off, firecrackers do not explode, lights may or may not get turned on, but as we move through the day we see opportunities for kindness, patience and generosity. That is God calling us and expecting a response.

Let’s put those facts in the context of this part of the Church year. We are back with the dull, not too exciting “Sundays of the Year.” Today is the Second Sunday and next November we will be celebrating the 35th Sunday. Remember, this is the liturgical year, not the calendar year. In each Sunday, a collage of texts has been selected to bring us an important message for our meditation and spiritual development, and this Sunday is a classic example of a specific message.

In the first reading, the prophet Isaiah is told by Yahweh that he has been called in a very special way to stand up and proclaim God’s love for the people. In the second reading, Paul tells the Corinthians that he has been called to be an apostle and so have they, and they have been made a holy people. Finally, the Gospel presents the dramatic scene in which John the Baptist points out, “There is the lamb of God!” Jesus has been called into the human story to achieve salvation and victory over evil. That of course is the call of all calls.

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Why the Apostles Were Confused

By , November 16, 2013 5:07 am

23rd Sunday, November 17th
From time to time I try to encourage readers of the bible that it contains many different forms of literature. Some is history, some is biography, some is poetry, etc., etc. If one is to really get the maximum meaning from a sacred text, the reader should always be clearly conscious of what literary form is being presented by the sacred author.

Of course, there is also the fact that the various segments of the bible are written over centuries and they do not tie together like a neat modern novel that begins at the beginning and ends at the end.

Today’s texts are a good example of the importance of understanding context. In the Gospel, we have our Divine Lord looking into the future and warning the apostles that tough times are coming and if they are to be faithful to him, they must be brave and courageous. He describes the end of the world and the final Judgment and it is an awesome scene of violence and destruction. The fact is that there are two points of termination in our story. The first is our own individual death when we report in as to how we have used the life that has been given. The second, of course, is the termination of history as God’s plans for the human story will have been fulfilled. What a scene.

St. Paul would know about this prophecy from Jesus but he keeps his feet on the ground, uses horse sense and cautions his followers that while they realize the end is coming, they still have to get by in a practical day to day manner. Paul was faced with the fact that many members of the early church decided that they could just sit back and wait for Judgment Day. Paul says, “No you can’t!” He says, “Imitate me! We did not live lives of disorder when we were among you nor depend on any one for food. Rather we work day and night laboring to the point of exhaustion. Indeed when I was with you I laid down the rule that anyone who would not work neither let him eat.”

Two thousand years have passed. The end of the world does not seem to have arrived but Paul’s principle is still very valid. We have to make every effort to provide for ourselves.

Since Paul was constantly taking up collections for his poor Christians, however, he also clearly understood that while our first obligation is to provide for ourselves and our families, we have a secondary obligation to provide for the poor, the sick, the elderly and helpless children.

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Feast of St. Peter and Paul

By , June 29, 2013 4:28 am

June 29th
I have been putting this blog out for over three years and have had a consistent policy regarding the weekends. I attempt to make some meaningful remarks regarding one or another of Sunday’s scripture excerpts. That comes out on Saturday and then, following God’s direction in the Third Commandment, I do nothing on Sunday.
This week, however, I am going to let the scriptures take care of themselves. They are well able to do that and I would like to talk about today’s regular liturgical feast. Across the world today we celebrate the great names of St. Peter and St. Paul.
The Church has always kept these two men side by side because they are the key apostles in the first generation in the life of the Church. Peter was not just an apostle. He was the leader of the other apostles. While Paul was not one of the original twelve, he was certainly so filled with faith, zeal and effective missionary work that he declared himself an apostle and the Church has accepted that from the first century.
I think that we can take inspiration from these two wonderful men. They centered their lives on Jesus of Nazareth and the sacrifices in carrying out their missionary activities. Both experienced misunderstanding from others in the Church. Finally, both will die very close to each other in the year 66 in the first Roman persecution of this new community of Jesus’ followers, which at first was called “The Way.”
In addition to inspiration flowing from the example that they have given us, I think we can also find encouragement by the fact that as great as they were they both were very human. Peter was impetuous and at times inconsistent. Paul could be given to braggadociousness and anger. He fired two of his closest co-workers and had a face to face run in with St. Peter. I think that knowing about these very human blemishes is wonderful. We can draw inspiration and encouragement from Peter and Paul and all the saints without having to think that they were perfect. Their imperfections make their holiness even more important

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I Was Once A Young Bishop!

By , February 4, 2013 4:47 am

On January 26th, the Church across the world celebrated the feast day of two young bishops who were very important in the life of the early Church. Long ago, I myself was a young bishop. I have always had great fondness for these two and this particular feast day. Timothy and Titus were most likely converted and baptized by St. Paul himself. They are famous in history because Paul had them assist him in establishing new churches and three times he wrote letters to them, twice to Timothy and once to Titus, giving them detailed instructions that they were in charge of the Church. They had his authority and they were to use it effectively to build up this community of faith.
Leadership in the Church is filled with challenges and pitfalls. One should endeavor to carry out one’s responsibilities with humility. I was ordained a priest at 26 and a bishop at 48. My first assignment was to assist an elderly pastor in a large parish of 1,200 families. My second was to assist a diocesan bishop in a diocese of about six to seven hundred thousand. I am happy to say that there was plenty of moral support both from my brother priests and later my brother bishops. I even got three letters from
St. Paul myself. I say that because these three little letters provide first-rate advice to young clergy or young bishops and Paul was writing to all clergy, not just Timothy and Titus.
We are called to do the work of the Lord, to build up the Kingdom, to be examples of faith. If the clergy want to know how best to do that, just go and re-read St. Paul’s letters to Timothy and Titus.

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Not Always Accepted at Home

By , February 2, 2013 4:52 am

February 3rd, Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Thanks be to God for the Lectionary. I have been a Catholic priest for approximately 57 years and if you allowed for a couple of weeks of vacation or times on Sundays when I was not preaching, I probably averaged Sunday sermons 40 times a year. That is roughly 2,200 times to stand in a pulpit and try to present the message of Jesus Christ to a congregation. That is a lot of preaching but it is really not difficult at all. The Church’s wonderful system of a liturgical year, rotating seasons on a three year cycle with three texts for every Mass, gives us more than ample material. On occasions over the years I have had clergy complain that they didn’t know what to preach about on a particular Sunday or at a particular place. To me that is a mystery.
Today is a perfect example. We have two marvelous concepts placed before us by the Church in its liturgy. The first is St. Paul’s magnificent letter from I Corinthians about the nature of love and that while all virtues are good, love surpasses them all.
The Gospel except is from that dramatic scene in the 4th chapter of Luke where Jesus says to the congregation in his hometown synagogue after reading an Isaiah text announcing the coming of the Messiah, “Today the scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” There you have it! The first statement by our Lord himself that he is the Messiah. Jesus’ listeners took him very seriously and so accused him of claiming to be divine and then attempted to kill him. Read those two texts together. Everything to be said about love in human relations and about the mystery of the incarnation that God so loved the human family that he came among us and assumed a human nature.
There is always plenty to think about, talk about and pray about when it comes to our faith!

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He Was Really Knocked Off That Horse

By , February 1, 2013 4:45 am

I really love to read Church history. It is an extraordinary 2,000 year old story and, of course, still very much in the process of unfolding before us. If you had to pick 10 or 12 of the most important single days in the history of the Church, what would you choose? Obviously, the birth of Jesus and his resurrection would dominate the list but what about the rest of us? How would our brothers and sisters fit into that dramatic story?
For me, one of the most dramatic and important stories in Church history is the fact that an aggressive Jewish religious leader got knocked off his horse. I am talking about Paul of course, St. Paul or Paul of Tarsus as he described himself. Paul was a very committed activist Jew who was offended by that new faith started by one of his fellow Jews, Jesus of Nazareth. The synagogue was attempting to slow down the growth of this new faith. Paul was more than willing to help. He was a witness pushing the martyrdom of St. Stephen and was on his way to Damascus with orders to arrest Christians that were beginning to appear there. Then,
Paul hears a mysterious voice inquiring, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” Paul still doesn’t know what is going on and he asks, “Who are you Lord?” The voice answered, “I am Jesus and you are persecuting me.” Paul was then directed by the mysterious voice to go into the city and learn about Jesus and what had been happening because of him. The rest is history. Saul’s name would be changed to Paul and in some limited sense he is always counted among the apostles (13?).
Peter was the rock upon which Jesus built the Church. Peter was the foundation along with the other apostles which was so necessary in that first generation. However, Paul is the great missionary. He is the one who will enable the Christians to break out of the traditional Jewish frame of reference and reach out to the whole world. Paul’s conversion and missionary exploits provide us with the living out of the symbol of the coming of the three mysterious Eastern kings to the stable in Bethlehem. His work is a concrete manifestation of the Epiphany and the liturgy of the Church manifests our appreciation of the greatness of Paul by always linking him with St. Peter.
Peter and Paul – what a pair.

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