The need to share
Paul found himself in a rather difficult set of circumstances in terms of preaching about Jesus. It was a confusing world because there were so many entities that he had to kind of navigate his way through.
He was part of one of them, the very, very serious Jews who separated themselves from society for the sake of being faithful, totally faithful, to the covenant. That was who he was before his conversion. And then he saw the fulfillment of Jesus.
He saw that Jesus was the fulfillment of everything he had hoped for. And that opened the door to a rather complex set of relationships that St. Paul needed to negotiate. There was first and foremost the relationship that he had with people who were Jewish. He knew the Law. He was trained by one of the most serious rabbis. He was not a mediocre scholar.
And he had to navigate what it meant now that he had come to believe that Jesus was the fulfillment of the covenant first given centuries ago to the Jewish people. Then there are these Gentiles. And they start to hear the message of Paul. And they begin to experience the new life that Jesus wants to give to them.
They too begin to be recipients of the action and movement of the Holy Spirit. And of these Gentiles, there are multiple kinds. There are primarily two. There are those Gentiles who are Greek, who are living throughout the Roman Empire. And of course the Gentiles that are Roman. Paul himself is part of this kind of mix of circumstances.
Because while he is Jewish, he is also a Roman citizen. Which he makes a point of emphasizing when he is called in before Roman courts. He had to be delicate and yet forceful. And we know that even in this dance he was not always successful in keeping himself out of prison, at the hands of all of these groups.
But in the midst of it all, he keeps his focus. In the midst of it all, he recognizes that that encounter he first had with the risen Jesus on the road to Damascus has changed everything. It has changed everything for him.
And so he begins to recognize that he needs to identify for others the ways in which the Spirit has been active in their lives as well. He is very flattering to the Romans, but he is also challenging. But what he wants to point out to them more than anything in today’s reading are the ways in which God has been active and alive both in his life and in their lives.
This is the new challenge I would suggest that awaits us as Catholics. Can we recognize first those ways in which God is active and alive in our own lives? And can we summon the courage to help others to see that same activity of God?
Can we be people who share our faith, who evangelize, who talk about our faith in ways that are compelling as a witness to others so that they can begin to experience what we have found to be so beautiful in our own lives in terms of our faith? It’s not about beating people over the head with a book. As much as it is sharing with others the many ways in which Jesus makes all the difference in our lives.
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