Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on January 31, 2014

Pointillist JesusGospel reading of the day:

Mark 4:26-34

Jesus said to the crowds: “This is how it is with the Kingdom of God; it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land and would sleep and rise night and day and the seed would sprout and grow, he knows not how. Of its own accord the land yields fruit, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. And when the grain is ripe, he wields the sickle at once, for the harvest has come.”

He said, “To what shall we compare the Kingdom of God, or what parable can we use for it? It is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth. But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.” With many such parables he spoke the word to them as they were able to understand it. Without parables he did not speak to them, but to his own disciples he explained everything in private.

Reflection on the gospel reading: Pointillism is a technique of painting in which small, distinct dots of pure color are applied in patterns to form an image. The artist doesn’t use bush stroke to create an image; rather, she or he uses the tip of the brush to create a dot, and all the dots taken together form an image. I sometimes think of God as a pointillist painter. Each one of us sows. Sometimes we sow good. Sometimes we so bad. We may never understand how what we do contributes to creating the Kingdom of God, but the faith of the Church is that Jesus has already saved the world, and right now, in this already but not yet, we’re just working out the details–the individual dots that ultimately will create the whole picture. We–and the things we do–are the dots in the God’s painting: there’s no way for us to know how we–and what we do–fit into salvation history, but the painting is coming together even so all the same.

Saint of the day: Blessed Maria Cristina of Savoy was born Maria Cristina Carlotta Giuseppa Gaetana Efisia on November 14, 1812. She was the first Queen consort of Ferdinand II of the Two Sicilies. She died as a result of childbirth. Maria Cristina was the youngest daughter of King Victor Emmanuel I of Sardinia and Archduchess Maria Teresa of Austria-Este. Her maternal grandparents were Archduke Ferdinand of Austria-Este and Maria Beatrice Ricciarda d’Este. 502px-Maria_Cristina_di_SavoiaFerdinand was the fourteenth child and third son born to Francis I, Holy Roman Emperor and Maria Theresa of Austria. Maria Beatrice was the eldest daughter of Ercole III d’Este and Maria Teresa Cybo-Malaspina, Duchess of Massa and Princess of Carrara. On November 21, 1832, Maria Cristina married Ferdinand II of the Two Sicilies. The bride was 20-years-old and the groom 22. Maria Cristina was described as beautiful but also timid and shy: modest and reserved, she was never comfortable at the royal court. Her relationship to Ferdinand was not happy, and he had little patience for her nervous modesty. She died at the age of 23 on January 31, 1836, after having given birth five days before to her only child, a son who grew up to be the last king of the Two Sicilies. In 1872 she was declared to be a Servant of God and a Venerable in 1837. Her Beatification took place just last week on January 25, 2014 at the Basilica of Santa Chiara, where she is buried.

Spiritual reading: There is a deep and humbling lesson in the way of birds. Their wings grow and stretch and span patches of air. First tentatively and then with confidence, they lift, they pump, they glide, they land. It seems, for birds, it is the act of flying that is the goal. (Mark Nepo)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on January 30, 2014

Gospel reading of the day:

Mark 4:21-25

Jesus said to his disciples, “Is a lamp brought in to be placed under a bushel basket or under a bed, and not to be placed on a lamp stand? For there is nothing hidden except to be made 91928029b706efde04a32befbee455bc_w600visible; nothing is secret except to come to light. Anyone who has ears to hear ought to hear.” He also told them, “Take care what you hear. The measure with which you measure will be measured out to you, and still more will be given to you. To the one who has, more will be given; from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: The spiritual writer Brennan Manning once wrote, “The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians: who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, walk out the door, and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.” When Jesus invites us to let our lamp shine and put a worthy measure into the world, he is saying something very much like what Brennan Manning wrote: if I want to a Christian, then I ought to be one. For it is by behaving this way that the world will be prepared to believe in the One who has called us.

David Galvan-BermudezSaint of the day: Born in Guadalajara, Mexico on January 29, 1881, Saint David Galván Bermúdez, entered the seminary at age 14. He was an excellent student, but then he began questioning his vocation, he left for three years and worked, dated, and lived a wild life. At one time he was even arrested for hitting his girlfriend while he was drunk. However, he realized he could not ignore the call to his vocation. After a year’s probation, he returned to the seminary. He was ordained on May 20, 1909. He was the seminary instructor in Amatitán and then became the supervisor of the seminary. He was arrested one time for the crime of being a priest. During periods of armed fighting in the rebellion, he worked with the injured, patching wounds and hearing confessions. While on his way to Guadalajara to help victims of street fighting, he was arrested with Father Jose Araiza. He comforted fellow prisoners and heard their confessions in the hours before his execution. He was shot by firing squad for being a priest on January 30, 1915 in Guadalajara. He was canonized in 2000.

Spiritual reading: God does not care . . . whether I am happy or not. What God cares about, with all the power of God’s holy being, is the quality of my life…not jut the continuation of my breath and the health of my cells–but the quality of my life, the scope of my life, the heft and zest of my life . . . fear of death always turns into fear of life, into a stingy, cautious way of living that is not really living at all . . . to follow Jesus means going beyond the limits of our own comfort and safety. It means receiving our lives as gifts instead of guarding them as possessions. (Barbara Brown Taylor)

Homily February 2, 2014 Presentation of the Lord

Posted in christian, Christianity, church events, ecclesiology, inspirational, politics, religion, scripture by Fr Joe R on January 28, 2014

Today’s feast, the Presentation of the Lord like the Epiphany is one of the oldest feasts celebrated in the church and even pre-dates the celebration of Christmas which came about at the end of the fourth century. It was then that the Presentation was moved from forty days after epiphany, to Feb 2nd, forty days after the feast of Christmas, December 25th. simeon anna In the western church, the feast was named The Purification of the Blessed Mother and from the tradition of holding candles and processions on this day it was also sometimes called Candlemas day. The liturgical renewal of Vatican II restored the name to Presentation of the Lord. Under Jewish law, the first-born male belonged to God and the parents would bring the child to the temple and present him in the temple and then buy him back with the ritual offering which would be a lamb and a turtle-dove for the rich or a pair of turtle doves or two pigeons for poor couples. Mary and Joseph came with turtle doves. It would also be at this time that the ritual purification of the mother would take place as a woman was seen to be unclean after going through childbirth.

As happened often in Jesus’ life, the time of his presentation was not completely uneventful. An old man named Simeon was present who had been promised by God that he would see the Savior who was to come before he died and he took Jesus in his arms and thanked and praised God for having seen Jesus the Savior and the light of revelation to the gentiles. In peace he was now ready to die. From his lips comes the beautiful prayer known as the Nunc Dimitis which basically said that he was ready to see the Lord. He also prophesied that Jesus would suffer and that a sword of sorrow would pierce his mother’s heart. At the same time there was a prophetess named Anna in the temple who was very old and she too recognized the child and thanked God for redemption. After all this, Joseph and Mary fulfilled all the prescriptions of the law and went home to Nazareth and settled down to a daily ordinary life in their humble home.nazereth

As we leave them there today, let’s remember that when we look back and see the events described in the scriptures, I think we see them as stories stylized for when we were children. I think we lose sight of the fact that Jesus, Mary and Joseph were very ordinary people scratching out a living and working day-to-day much like most of us do today. They were kind loving hospitable people looking out for all around them. They didn’t stand out and they simply followed the law and intentions of the law and prophets. They stand out today because of Jesu and how he took on humanity and made it possible for all people to be reconciled to God and to be with him forever.

On this feast of the presentation, it is a good time to look at ourselves and present ourselves to God. It is in him that life can be most fulfilling and he always is waiting for us to reach out to him. As Christians we don’t have a rite of presentation, but we have sacraments or calls to faith and holiness that can transform the ordinary day-to-day life we lead to a true walk with God. Like that family in Nazareth, we aren’t called to be extraordinary, but to be just ordinary people and to do it well. All through history, God took lowly, ordinary people and ordinary events and made extraordinary things happen. As God made something from nothing, so we in faith can do a whole lot if only we have the faith and the will to do it. So, as we offer our Mass today, let us give ourselves and our faith and what we are to witness to Christ.

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on January 28, 2014

Madonna-and-Child-1520-25_imagelargeGospel reading of the day:

Mark 3:31-35

The mother of Jesus and his brothers arrived at the house. Standing outside, they sent word to Jesus and called him. A crowd seated around him told him, “Your mother and your brothers and your sisters are outside asking for you.” But he said to them in reply, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking around at those seated in the circle he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: Jesus throughout the gospels uses the circumstances around him as teachable moments for his listeners. He always looks beyond the basic facts of the situation, such as the arrival of his family of birth, to make a deeper point that reflects a central truth about his mission. Jesus in this passage is not rejecting the importance of family, but trying to demonstrate the relative value of following God’s will: when we strive to understand and do God’s will, we are Jesus’ family in a way that Jesus teaches is more fundamental to human existence than even the biological onds that unite a natural family. Jesus tacitly acknowledges the importance of our natural families when he says that doing God’s will is still more important than normal biological ties.

Saint of the day: Joseph Freinademetz was born in 1852, the fourth child of Giovanmattia and Anna Maria Freinademetz in Oies a section of the town of Badia in the southern Dolomites, which was then part of Austria and now part of Italy. He studied theology in the diocesan seminary of Brixen and was ordained priest on July 25, 1875. He was assigned to the community of San Martino di Badia, not far from his own home.

Joseph FreinademetzDuring his studies and the three years in San Martino, Freinademetz continually felt a calling to be a missionary. He contacted Arnold Janssen, founder of the mission house Society of the Divine Word in Steyl, a village in the south-east of the Netherlands. With the permission of his parents and his bishop, he moved to Steyl in August 1878, where he received training as a missionary.

In March 1879 he and his confrere John Baptist Anzer boarded a ship to Hong Kong, where they arrived five weeks later. They stayed there for two years. Freinademetz was based in Sai Kung until 1880 and set up a chapel on the island of Yim Tin Tsai in 1879. In 1881 they moved to the province South Shantung that they were assigned to. At the time of their arrival, there were 12 million people living in this province, of which 158 had been baptized.

Freinademetz was very active in the education of Chinese laymen and priests. He wrote a catechetical manual in Chinese, which he considered a crucial part of their missionary effort. In 1898, he was sick with laryngitis and tuberculosis, so Anzer, who had become bishop, and other priests convinced him to go to Japan to recuperate. He returned but was not fully cured. When his bishop had to leave China for a journey to Europe in 1907, the administration of the diocese was assigned to Freinademetz.

There was an outbreak of typhus in this time, and he helped wherever he could, until he himself became infected. He returned to Taikia, South Shandong, where he died on January 28, 1908. He was buried in Taikia, at the twelfth station on the Way of the Cross. He was canonized in 2003.

Spiritual reading: Love is the only language everyone understands. (Joseph Freinademetz)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on January 27, 2014

dpotok1Gospel reading of the day:

Mark 3:22-30

The scribes who had come from Jerusalem said of Jesus, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “By the prince of demons he drives out demons.” Summoning them, he began to speak to them in parables, “How can Satan drive out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand; that is the end of him. But no one can enter a strong man’s house to plunder his property unless he first ties up the strong man. Then he can plunder his house. Amen, I say to you, all sins and all blasphemies that people utter will be forgiven them. But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an everlasting sin.” For they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.”

Reflection on the gospel: Jesus is the revelation of the Father–God’s making Godself concrete and present in human history. Since the Father is good, the Son is good, and the Spirit of God opens hearts to recognize the goodness of the Son is the goodness of the Father. If the source of evil is the source of Jesus’ actions, the world makes no sense, because evil cannot manifest itself in good acts. Despite every sign that God loves us, we close our hearts to the evidence, given us over and over throughout the course of our lives. When we completely close our hearts to the Spirit, we allow the Spirit no room to move in our lives, and when the door to grace is closed, there is no hope.

Saint of the day: Born in 1474 in Italy, Angela Merici has the double distinction of founding the first teaching congregation of women in the Church and what is now called a “secular institute” of religious women. As a young woman she became a member of the Third Order of St. Francis (now known as the Secular Franciscan Order), and lived a life of great austerity, wishing, like St. Francis, to own nothing, not even a bed. Early in life she was appalled at the ignorance among poorer children, whose parents could not or would not teach them the elements of religion. Angela’s charming manner and good looks complemented her natural qualities of leadership. Others joined her in giving regular instruction to the little girls of their neighborhood.

She was invited to live with a family in Brescia (where, she had been told in a vision, she would one day found a religious community). Her work continued and became well known. She became the center of a group of people with similar ideals. She eagerly took the opportunity for a trip to the Holy Land. When they had gotten as far as Crete, she was struck with blindness. Her friends wanted to return home, but she insisted on going through with the pilgrimage, and visited the sacred shrines with as much devotion and enthusiasm as if she had her sight. On the way back, while praying before a crucifix, her sight was restored at the same place where it had been lost.

At 57, she organized a group of 12 girls to help her in catechetical work. Four years later the group had increased to 28. She formed them into the Company of St. Ursula (patroness of medieval universities and venerated as a leader of women) for the purpose of re-Christianizing family life through solid Christian education of future wives and mothers. The members continued to live at home, had no special habit and took no formal vows, though the early Rule prescribed the practice of virginity, poverty and obedience. The idea of a teaching congregation of women was new and took time to develop. The community thus existed as a “secular institute” until some years after Angela’s death.

Spiritual reading: A church that suffers no persecution but enjoys the privileges and support of the things of the earth – beware! – is not the true church of Jesus Christ. A preaching that does not point out sin is not the preaching of the gospel. A preaching that makes sinners feel good, so that they are secured in their sinful state, betrays the gospel’s call. (Oscar Romeo, Martyr)

Father Peter’s Homily for the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted in Uncategorized by Mike on January 26, 2014

Father Tony’s Homily for the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted in Uncategorized by Mike on January 26, 2014

Homily for the Feast of the Presentation, Year A 2014

Posted in christian, Christianity, church events, ecclesiology, ethics, inspirational, religion, scripture, Uncategorized by Fr. Ron Stephens on January 26, 2014

Homily for the Feast of the Presentation, Year A  2014

In Jewish practices around the time of Christ, it was one of the laws of the time that Jewish women be purified forty days after the birth of their children. We have to remember that there may have been medical reasons for these laws originally, though they didn’t understand at the time what we know about medicine today, but in Jesus’ time these rites were more ritualistic than practical. A women went to the temple with her first born male child and the child was prayed over and his life bought back or redeemed from God by a monetary sacrifice, while the woman presented offerings for her purification. A man was not allowed to have intercourse with her, for example, until this time period ended and the ritual was enacted.

This event which we remember today, and which is important enough in our liturgy to replace a Sunday when it falls on a Sunday, has long been held to be an important feast in the church and a major event in the life of Jesus. In the Old Testament the rite of redemption was described this way: “Every firstborn of man among your sons, you shall redeem. And it will come to pass that if your son asks you in the future, saying, “What is this?” you shall say to him, “With a mighty hand did God take us out of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. And it came to pass when Pharaoh was too stubborn to let us out, God slew every firstborn in the land of Egypt.” (Ex 13:13-16) So the “buying back” was a thanks to God for saving the lives of the firstborn Jewish males in Egypt. The parents would make a monetary offering to redeem the child, that is to take possession of the child from God. That monetary offering was set in the book of Numbers at 5 shekels.

As we saw with the baptism of Jesus, Jesus and his parents were fully Jewish and did all the the things expected of a Jewish family. The rituals that we have as Catholics today differ in many ways from the Hebrew traditions – we don’t buy back our firstborn from God or ritually cleanse women from childbirth, but we do have ritualistic ceremonies such as the baptism of a child which has its own order and practices (as we saw just last week). So the holy family carried out what was expected of them. They were good Jewish parents – righteous, the Bible would call them.

When they were at the Temple, however, an old man named Simeon and an old woman, Anna, who was seen to be a Prophet, encounter the holy family and both make proclamations concerning the child. Simeon’s prayer is one of the most beautiful in the Bible, basically saying that he is ready to die now because he has been fortunate enough to witness the Savior. Similarly Anna speaks about this child who is to redeem Israel, although we are never given her exact words as we are with Simeon.

The first part of Simeon’s prayer contains prophecy and it is his mentioning that Jesus, this child,  will “be a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel” that gives us one of the secondary names of this feast “Candlemas”. It is why we bless candles today, because they give off light, as will Jesus.  Light imagery as we saw during the Christmas celebration is one of the major symbols of Christ’s coming into the world.  It is appropriate then that the Church has chosen this day to bless candles, given Simeon’s prophesy of light.

It is the second part of Simeon’s proclamation, however, that presents the theme of all of today’s readings.  After he praises the child, Simeon goes to Mary, blesses her and says: “This child is destined for the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed – and a sword will pierce your own soul, too.

The first reading today deals predominately with suffering. The image used is jewelry and soap making.  In order to get silver and gold and soap, there has to be refining, the removal of the impure elements, so that the final product is perfect.  To do that the gold, silver or soap has to go through a heating process where the impurities are burnt off.  In human life, we call this suffering, the reading implies. The Messiah, according to the prophet Malachi, will be like the refiner’s fire – but in Christian terms, not only will he refine us, but he does this by suffering in our place, being himself thrown into the refining fires.

This same theme is picked up by Paul in the letter to the Hebrews when he says that God “should make the source of their salvation perfect through sufferings.” And he adds: “For the one who sanctifies and those who are sanctified are all from one.” Paul goes on to talk about how Jesus was sent by God to destroy the devil, to destroy the fear of death. To do this he became one of us, and suffered as we do, and is put to the test as we are.

Simeon’s prophecy about Mary tells her that she too will suffer – that a sword will pierce her soul – but that in the end, like the refiner’s fire, something perfect will emerge.

I know that one of the questions I am most often asked is why do we suffer. Why does God allow suffering? The answer in these readings seems to be that to suffer is part of the human condition – our minds and bodies have not reached any type of perfection – but that suffering can be a good thing if it seen as something which refines us, strengthens us, redeems us. I do not believe that God punishes us with suffering. Bad things just happen because we are in an imperfect world.  But our attitude to suffering, what we do with that suffering is what Christ came to us as an example and role model of. We can better ourselves through our sufferings. And yes, some people suffer more than others simply though the laws of chance. But if we realize that suffering can make us better people, can refine us, can be a lesson for others as they strive to survive, then we have chosen to use a bad thing and make it something better. We, too, can become light for others.

I want you think this week about your attitude toward suffering, and if there is anger, resentment, “why me?” attitudes, look back on other things you have endured and see if it did not make you a stronger, better person. We don’t have to like suffering, we can even get angry with God about it, but in the end, if we can let ourselves be refined by it, our lives will have changed for the better, and probably those around us as well.

Just something to think about this week as we remember this small baby, presented in the temple, bought back from God by Mary and Joseph, and who is destined to change the whole world through his suffering.

May suffering become Good news in your life as well.


Bishop Ron Stephens

Auxiliary Bishop of Holy Trinity Diocese

Of the Catholic Apostolic Church in North America (CACINA)

Pastor of St. Andrew’s Parish in Warrenton, VA

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Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on January 26, 2014

Gospel reading of the day:

Matthew 4:12-23

When Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. He left Nazareth and went to live in Capernaum by the sea, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali, that what had been said through Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled:

Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the way to the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles, the people who sit in darkness have seen a great light, on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death light has arisen.

From that time on, Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

As he was walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew, casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen. He said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” At once they left their nets and followed him. He walked along from there and saw two other brothers, James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They were in a boat, with their father Zebedee, mending their nets. He called them, and immediately they left their boat and their father and followed him. He went around all of Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and curing every disease and illness among the people.

Reflection on the gospel reading: When Jesus called people to repent, he was not merely asking them to reject the wrongs they had done in the past. It was something much greater than that. The good news that Jesus preaches is about a radical change of attitude. Embracing the kingdom of God (or “heaven” as Matthew styles it) is not merely about a trajectory to the afterlife but much more immediately about changing the direction of our lives to establish God’s reign on earth: it means feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, taking care of the sick, being present to captives, rejecting hypocrisy. Embracing the good news, that is, to be a Christian, is about our acts of courtesy, kindness, justice, and love that manifest the presence of God’s kingdom in the world. All of this, of course, has great relevance to how we live our lives here and now as people who are responsible to one another.

But this passage of the gospel documents that the proclamation of the kingdom of God has a history of changing lives that goes right back to the very beginning. The second part of the gospel passage is about the reaction of four men to Jesus’ teaching: giving everything up in total trust to follow Jesus. Said another way, the history of the gospel is its power to change lives and redirect the course of events. It is a history that begins with Peter, Andrew, John, and James, and it is a history that continues to this very moment as each of us in our own turn opens ourselves to understand the implications of Jesus’ teaching in our lives.

Spiritual reading: But when once Christ had called him, Peter had no alternative he must leave the ship and come to Him. In the end, the first step of obedience proves to be an act of faith in the word of Christ. But we should completely misunderstand the nature of grace if we were to suppose that there was no need to take the first-step, because faith was already there. Against that, we must boldly assert that the step of obedience must be taken before faith can be possible. Unless he obeys, a man cannot believe. (The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on January 25, 2014

997744cca3fcf644e5a3863f5c33f3da_w600Gospel reading of the day:

Mark 16:15-18

Jesus appeared to the Eleven and said to them: “Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned. These signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will drive out demons, they will speak new languages. They will pick up serpents with their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them. They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: The passage from Mark’s gospel that we read today is one of the alternative endings to the gospel. Jesus, after his resurrection, appears to the apostles and commissions them to go out and teach the whole world about his coming and his way of life. If we read between the lines, it says to us that if we are willing to trust God, extraordinary things will come to pass in our lives and the lives of people whom we encounter. It is a message that fits well the feast of Paul’s conversion, which we celebrate today. Because Paul trusted God’s inspiration, he was able to follow Jesus, taking the gospel into the whole world. Extraordinary things did come to pass, not just for Paul, but also for the countless numbers of men and women who through the centuries have come to know Jesus because Paul responded so completely to Jesus’ commission.

Saint of the day: Today is the celebration of the call of Paul the Apostle. Paul’s entire life can be explained in terms of one experience—his meeting with Jesus on the road to Damascus. In an instant, he saw that all the zeal of his dynamic personality was being wasted, like the strength of a boxer swinging wildly. Perhaps he had never seen Jesus, who was only a the-conversion-of-st-paulfew years older. But he had acquired a zealot’s hatred of all Jesus stood for, as he began to harass the Church: “…entering house after house and dragging out men and women, he handed them over for imprisonment” (Acts 8:3b). Now he himself was “entered,” possessed, all his energy harnessed to one goal—being a slave of Christ in the ministry of reconciliation, an instrument to help others experience the one Savior.

One sentence determined his theology: “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting” (Acts 9:5b). Jesus was mysteriously identified with people—the loving group of people Saul had been running down like criminals. Jesus, he saw, was the mysterious fulfillment of all he had been blindly pursuing. From then on, his only work was to “present everyone perfect in Christ. For this I labor and struggle, in accord with the exercise of his power working within me” (Colossians 1:28b-29). “For our gospel did not come to you in word alone, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and [with] much conviction” (1 Thessalonians 1:5a).

Paul’s life became a tireless proclaiming and living out of the message of the cross: Christians die through baptism to sin and are buried with Christ; they are dead to all that is sinful and unredeemed in the world. They are made into a new creation, already sharing Christ’s victory and someday to rise from the dead like him. Through this risen Christ the Father pours out the Spirit on them, making them completely new. So Paul’s great message to the world was: You are saved entirely by God, not by anything you can do. Saving faith is the gift of total, free, personal and loving commitment to Christ, a commitment that then bears fruit in more “works” than the Law could ever contemplate.

Spiritual reading: I assure you, brothers, the gospel I proclaimed to you is no mere human invention. I did not receive it from any man, not was I schooled in it. It came by revelation from Jesus Christ. You have heard, I know, the story of my former way of life in Judaism. You know that I went to extremes in persecuting the Church of God, and tried to destroy it. But the time came when he who had set me apart before I was born and called me by his favor chose to reveal his Son to me, that I might spread among the Gentiles the good tidings concerning him. Immediately, without seeking human advisers or even going to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before me, I went off to Arabia; later I returned to Damascus. Three years after that I went up to Jerusalem to get to know Cephas, with whom I stayed fifteen days. I did not meet any other apostles except James, the brother of the Lord. The communities of Christ in Judea had no idea what I looked like; they had only heard that “he who was formerly persecuting us is now preaching the faith he tried to destroy,” and they gave glory to God on my account. (Paul in the Letter to the Galatians)