Taste and See: a new life

Ss Stephen and Paul

The Second reading at Mass yesterday,Sunday, the 10th Sunday in Ordinary Time, began a series of Sunday readings from Paul’s Letter to the Galatians.

It is quite some letter! And it is not so easy to get a sense of its passion from the Sunday readings only. It is not a long letter, so why not take time to re-read it in your bible, or read it on line here.

One of the aspects of Paul that we can sometimes overlook is the role Paul took in the persecution of the Church, and his participation in the murder of Stephen the Deacon.

The Good News I preached is not a human message that I was given by men, it is something I learnt only through a revelation of Jesus Christ. You must have heard of my career as a practising Jew, how merciless I was in persecuting the Church of God, how much damage I did to it, how I stood out among other Jews of my generation, and how enthusiastic I was for the traditions of my ancestors.

Then God, who had specially chosen me while I was still in my mother’s womb, called me through his grace and chose to reveal his Son in me, so that I might preach the Good News about him to the pagans. I did not stop to discuss this with any human being, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to see those who were already apostles before me, but I went off to Arabia at once and later went straight back from there to Damascus. Even when after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and stayed with him for fifteen days, I did not see any of the other apostles; I only saw James, the brother of the Lord.

Galatians 1:11-19

 

Paul confesses his part in that persecution, but also knows that he has repented of that, and knowing that, in Christ, he has been set free from sin, and free to share the Good News with others. In his passion he know works for the upbuilding of the nations, sharing with them the promise first made to Israel.

  • For what are you passionate?
  • For what have you needed to repent?
  • From what have you been set free?
  • With whom and why might you wish to share the Good News of Jesus Christ?

Paul at the stoning of St Stephen. St Paul outside the Walls, Rome. (c) 2016, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: persuade us you matter!

The Second reading on Sunday, the 10th Sunday in Ordinary Time, has us begin our reading of Paul’s Letter to the Galatians – a raw and angry justification of his mission of introducing non-Jews to  faith in Christ, and drawing them into the communion of the Church.

The Good News I preached is not a human message that I was given by men, it is something I learnt only through a revelation of Jesus Christ. You must have heard of my career as a practising Jew, how merciless I was in persecuting the Church of God, how much damage I did to it, how I stood out among other Jews of my generation, and how enthusiastic I was for the traditions of my ancestors.

Then God, who had specially chosen me while I was still in my mother’s womb, called me through his grace and chose to reveal his Son in me, so that I might preach the Good News about him to the pagans. I did not stop to discuss this with any human being, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to see those who were already apostles before me, but I went off to Arabia at once and later went straight back from there to Damascus. Even when after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and stayed with him for fifteen days, I did not see any of the other apostles; I only saw James, the brother of the Lord.

Galatians 1:11-19

It is rare for that rawness and anger to be evident in the way the text is read at Mass. Which maybe raises the question ‘why?’ Is that readers are not familiar with the source of the reading and its context, or that we just don’t ‘do’ anger at Mass.

Both are possible reasons, and both would be reasons to regret if they are true. Anger at least indicates this is about something that matters and is capable of being opposed, not just a half familiar tale of what happened way back when, and which does not really interest us, for what has it to do with us? And if our readers are not trained to understand well what they read or proclaim, our congregations are being shortchanged.

On Sunday listen and ponder how the reading is read, as well as what is read.

  • Who supports your readers in their ministry.
  • What support would they welcome?
  • And is there more that they might need?
  • And where does the work reside of introducing Christ to those who do not yet know him?

Peter and Paul. St Paul outside the Walls, Rome. (c) 2016, Allen Morris.