Emmitsburg Council of Churches

St Paul: Hero for us All

Father John J. Lombardi

Martyr Mystic and Missionary

The guy was a killer and yet turned saint. He was a convert and neurotically helped convert others to Christ. Pope Benedict has named this The Year of St Paul. He is known as the greatest evangelist. St Paul was first sent to the Jews (of which he was a very zealous one) and then, when many did not accept Christ as Savior and Messiah, he went to the Gentiles. There are many lessons of his life for us today, so, following are The Top Ten Pauline Teachings…

  1. Christ as center of Faith: The Bible is not our Faith, nor another person or any ritual, custom or anything created-these, for St Paul could become a god, idol. Only Jesus Christ d and center of Faith. "They (pagans") exchanged the immortal God for the likeness of an image of mortal man…" (Rm. 1:23). "But may I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ…" (Gal. 5:14). ..What is the center of your life-another person, possession or hobby? Chase Hilgenbrinck of the New England Revolution soccer team was making great money and enjoying fame in many countries. Then he decided to join the priesthood-in the middle of the season. He said he couldn't wait-it was inevitable. (See next week's bulletin).
  2. Conversion: We all need constant conversion deeper into Jesus' life-morally, spiritually, lifestyle-wise. St Paul went thru the ultimate conversion and then gave his life entirely over to Jesus. Conversion isn't done only in one day or at one time only-we need continually give our lives over to our Savior, as St Paul did. Read about his conversion in Acts 9:1ff. When I visit the nursing home I sometimes see an eighty year old man with a magnifying lens reading a big print page of prayers, including the act of Contrition. He exemplifies for me the constant need to turn to our Loving Savior for mercy and liberating love-at any age!
  3. Carry the Message forth-Paul was a Missionary: We cannot keep the saving grace and love of Jesus Christ to ourselves. Nor that He invites all into His Church-we must spread the Good News. St Paul did thru his many missionary travels-incessantly…Sr. Dorothy Stang left her comfortable home to become a religious sister; then departed the United States and spent decades in the Amazon jungle working with poor persons. She was killed in 2005 for mission work, ever unafraid to carry the Good News forth: How can you spread Christ's Message more in your life? Don't forget: "Proclaim the word, whether it is convenient or inconvenient; convince, reprimand, encourage thru all teaching and patience" (II Tim. 4: 2)
  4. Mystical Life: God calls us all to union with Him and St Paul epitomized this thru his prayer and mystical writings. Do you like St Paul develop an interior life and cultivate a relationship with the Divine Trinity within and around you? Get started-now!-and mediate upon these passages: "And all of us, gazing upon the Lord are being transformed into his likeness form glory to glory" (II Cor. 3: 18); and also: "It is I no longer that lives but Christ within me" (Gal. 2:20) How can you pray more, more deeply. Do you nurture your soul as you do your desires for television or sports or shopping?
  5. Church: "As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body though many, are also one, so also Christ" (I cor. 12:12). As spiritual, fiery, and evangelical as St Paul was, he emphasized community and Church-that we need to stick together and help one another. Above he describes the "Mystical Body of Christ"-we all have parts to contribute; and we need to believe together the same things, not in constricting conformity but dynamic oneness. And Church for St Paul doesn't just mean a building but also the believers…How can you contribute to your local community and build up the Mystical Body more?
  6. Beliefs: St Paul always taught proper belief is essential to being a Christ-follower. "But you remain faithful to what you have learned and believed…For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine…"(II Tim 3:15; 4:3). Many today believe you do not have to believe what the Bible or ore Catholics church teaches-whether about Christ's Divinity, human sexuality or dignity of all life, born and unborn. A pilgrim recently heard a pastor-friend state that Christians today do not believe all of what their church or bible teaches them. The pilgrim was so flummoxed and didn't respond. After thinking, the pilgrim later saw the minister and in a friendly way said she did believe all her Church taught! His eyes widened and she was joyful to witness to him about our Catholic Faith!
  7. The Holy Spirit: as much as we need the "hardness" of moral teachings and toughness of the Ten Commandments, we also need moisture-esp. thru the Holy Spirit Who breathes into us disciples and Unites us to the Divine Trinity and to Jesus. We need the "extension" of Jesus, the Spirit to help us. "To each individual is given the Spirit for some benefit…" (I Cor. 12: 7) and: "The Spirit comes to the aid of our weakness…but the Spirit intercedes with inexpressible groaning" (Rm. 8:26)…Do you pray enough to, and get to know, the Holy Spirit?
  8. Oneness and Diversity: Like the United States motto-e pluribus unum -out of the many, one-St Paul recognized many gifts, challenges and possibilities within early Christianity-and yet, also, a oneness in Jesus and the Spirit. Without which all the diversity would be chaos and unmanageable. In his many letters to various communities-from Galatians to Philippians to Corinth-he stressed: variety as an expression of God and not to get hung up on uniqueness or troubles but, rather to overcome, reconcile and be united by the savior and Sprit…Let's think of Pope Benedict and the one billion Catholics he is called to unite and help him by our prayer and work with his counsels by helping others in our parishes and communities. Remember: "Now you are Christ's Body and individually parts of it" (I Cor. 12: 31).
  9. All we need is Love: As brilliant and talented as Paul was, he said: "…If I do not have love, then I am a resounding gong" (I Cor. 13 :). In other words, everyone must practice heartfelt and conscious love towards others-even those we do not like. Spread the Love like St Paul!
  10. Justified by Faith: Especially in the Letter to the Galatians Paul stressed that God's goodness and Jesus' Mercy are the initiative of Divine Life -they saved us and protect us before anything we could do. However we must still be active and accept that Love-offering and respond to it by our lives of charity. The obvious nuance St Paul himself brings to this is that faith works thru love" (Gal. 5:6) and also that Faith without works is dead (Jas. 2:17)). Let us realize it is God Who takes the initiative, saves us and empowers us to do good works-like the saints did, show and, hopefully, we will!

How to Respond:

By the end of the year, read the Letters of St Paul-prayerfully consider them..Read the Acts of the Apostles-the first half is mainly about Peter, the second half (ch. 9ff) about Paul…Think of Paul's virtues: zeal; love; courage and imitate them in your life…

Pilgrim Center: Please consider giving to our new visitor center. We need your help. Please call Bill Tronolone for information ASAP! We are moving along yet need more participation because the Center is for you, with you and by you!

Mass and the Bible: The Kingdom of God is like…" (Mt. 13:44-46). He is King and ruler of your heart and moral and spiritual life? Do you walk in His Kingdom and spend time in prayer in Christ-Kingdom-Consciousness?

Read other reflections by Father John J. Lombardi