PAUL, APOSTLE OF THE GENTILES Model of Proclaiming the Gospel Paul’s Mission in the Church Obligation To Proclaim the Word; the Recipients of His Message Paul’s Concept of the Apostle The Apostle’s Interior Traits To Be Paul Today
Summary of a conference by Fr. Rafael Castaneda, ssp
PAUL’S MISSION IN THE CHURCH 1. The Unity and Complexity of Paul’s Work Considered from the perspective of the spirit that animated it, the various aspects of Paul’s work formed a perfect unity inasmuch as his mission consisted of service of the Living God to the exclusion of all else. Prior to the Damascus event, this mission was characterized by zealous service of the Law of Moses (a zeal worthy of imitation); afterward, it was characterized by fervor for Christ and his Gospel, because under the noonday sky of Damascus Paul was “seized” by God and set apart to carry out a unique mission. The generous and singleminded dedication to God which he displayed prior to Damascus did not change in nature or object, but simply in direction. However, if we consider the way in which Paul manifested his dedication, then his work was very complex, reflecting the life of a person constantly on the move. He maintained this style of life for about 20 years (from circa 45 A.D. up to his death), always on the go as a result of his insatiable need to evangelize as many people as possible. Paul was a charismatic preacher; “a herald, apostle and teacher,” as he defines himself in 2 Timothy 1:11. People were drawn to his fascinating personality, which was reinforced by his witness of self-offering and suffering. He was an organizer of communities and of the Christian life; he founded churches and formed leaders to guide them. He was a bold explorer, traveler and navigator…. In his first three missionary trips alone, he traveled a total of about 5000 km. by land and sea. 2. The Reason for His Apostolic Activities The central reason and driving force behind the Apostle’s activities was his love for Jesus, to whom he witnessed (cf. 2 Co. 5:14). In fact, his extraordinary activity is unexplainable if it is not seen in the mirror of the exceptional motivating force of Christ, whose Gospel contains an intrinsic power, as Paul well knew: “the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes” (Rm. 1:16). Christ, who had completely redirected the life of this convinced and zealous Jew, giving him a single, binding duty: to proclaim him. Christ, who “died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them” (2 Co. 5:15). Christ, the mystery of whose death and resurrection under the double-sided coin of the scandal of the cross and the radiance of Easter pervaded his entire life to the point of becoming his life itself: “For to me, life is Christ and death is gain” (Phil. 1:21). 3. Missionary Zeal This was Paul’s response to the initiative of Christ, who seized him; it was the manifestation of his desire to “seize” the Lord in his turn by means of a life totally dedicated to proclaiming him…always further afield and to an always greater degree. Paul’s response to the dynamic tension between the message already proclaimed and the one still to be announced to “all those called to move from darkness to the light” (cf. Acts 26:18) was missionary zeal: “How then are they to call on him if they have not come to believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard of him? And how will they hear of him unless there is
a preacher for them? And how will there be preachers if they are not sent? As scripture says: How beautiful are the feet of the messenger of the good news” (Rm. 10:14-15). Christians must allow their faith to transform them into heralds. Because of this, God invites every Christian to “stand firm, with feet shod in readiness for the gospel of peace” (cf. Eph. 6:14, 15). 4. Unflagging Missionary Thrust Paul’s missionary zeal remained steadfast, undiminished by his concrete possibilities of proclaiming his message or by problems that arose. His inflexible conviction and “stubborn” activity was transformed into concern for others or into endurance in times of struggle, according to the situations he encountered. Paul was concerned about “all the churches” (2 Co. 11:28), about each individual Church, and about their members. This love and concern prompted him to write, travel, speak. If necessary, he changed his plans, as was the case following his vision of the Macedonian who invited him to his country: “Come over to Macedonia and help us” (Acts 16:9). Paul’s ability to courageously bear whatever came his way was the hidden root that sustained the entire tree of his ministry: “…In everything we prove ourselves to be authentic servants of God; by resolute perseverance in times of hardships, difficulties and distress; when we are flogged or sent to prison or mobbed; laboring, sleepless, starving; in purity, in knowledge, in patience, in kindness; in the Holy Spirit, in a love free of affectation; in the word of truth and in the power of God; by using the weapons of uprightness for attack and for defense; in times of honor or disgrace, blame or praise; taken for imposters and yet we are genuine; unknown and yet we are acknowledged; dying, and yet here we are, alive; scourged but not executed; in pain yet always full of joy; poor and yet making many people rich; having nothing, and yet owning everything” (2 Co. 6:4-10). Continually exposed to death for the sake of Jesus (2 Co. 6:4-11), Paul did not lose heart: “While we are still alive, we are continually being handed over to death, for the sake of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus, too, may be visible in our body” (2 Co. 4:11). On the contrary, he was brimming over with courage and trust: “That is why we do not waver; indeed, though this outer human nature of ours may be falling into decay, at the same time our inner human nature is renewed day by day” (2 Co. 4:16). He even found “the burden of his trials” light and was not ashamed to struggle and suffer for the sake of the Gospel: “That is the reason for my present plight; but I am not ashamed of it, because I know whom I have trusted, and am confident of his power to keep safe what he has put into my charge until the great day” (2 Tm. 1:12). In fact, Paul was certain that it was when he was weak that he was strong (2 Co. 12:10); indeed, that he was “triumphantly victorious” through the power of the One who loved him (cf. Rm. 8:37). Thus his zeal did not diminish even when he was “chained like a criminal” because “God’s message cannot be chained” (2 Tm. 2:9). It raced ahead and penetrated everywhere through its own intrinsic power, combined with the power of the sufferings of Christ (which Paul completed in his own body), the zeal of his brothers and sisters, and the power of prayer (a decisive element). Paul’s anxiety for the Churches nourished his prayer. In adoring, praising, thanking and supplicating God, he kept in mind his communities, their problems and the progress they were making. His petitions to God, in particular, have the flavor of a “struggle” with the divine (Rm. 15:30: “I appeal to you…to join me in earnest prayer to God on my behalf, that I may be
rescued from the unbelievers…”) so that all obstacles to the Word might be removed, enabling it to race ahead, “spread rapidly and be glorified everywhere” (2 Th. 3:1).
OBLIGATION TO PROCLAIM THE WORD; THE RECIPIENTS OF HIS MESSAGE Paul manifested a great sense of responsibility with regard to the work of evangelization, believing this was both a gift and a duty. This led him to dedicate himself always and only to “his” Gospel, which came from God: “For I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel that was proclaimed by me is not of human origin; for I did not receive it from a human source, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ” (Ga. 1:11-12). The Heart of Paul’s Proclamation Paul’s proclamation centered on Christ and his salvation. He defined his doctrine through a wealth of expressions, which can be reduced, in essence, to: Christ Jesus: “We do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord” (2 Co. 4:5). Christ crucified: “I resolved that while I was with you I would not claim to know anything but Jesus Christ–Christ nailed to the cross” (1 Co. 2:2). The wisdom of God: “I speak God’s hidden wisdom, his secret purpose framed from the very beginning to bring us to our destined glory. None of the powers that rule the world has known that wisdom” (1 Co. 2:7-8). “The unfathomable riches of Christ” (Eph. 3:8). “The gifts bestowed on us by God” (1 Co. 2:12). The mystery of Christ: “When you read this you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ” (Eph. 3:4). Paul “possessed” Christ both intellectually and experientially; however, he realized that this “possession” could not remain static if he were to proclaim him. It had to be dynamic and progressive: “Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:13-14). Christ and his message can never be catalogued once and for all, nor can they be reduced to a standard formula. Because of this, Paul asked everyone to pray to the Lord: “that I may boldly and freely make known the hidden purpose of the Gospel” (Eph. 6:19). A Debtor to All for the Sake of the Gospel Paul felt that his mission of evangelization was destined for the masses, not simply for specific groups or categories of people: “This man is my chosen instrument to bring my name before the nations and their kings, and before the people of Israel” (Acts 9:15). “I have made you a light to the Gentiles, that you may be an instrument of salvation to the ends of the earth” (Acts 13:47). “From Jerusalem and all round, even as far as Illyricum, I have fully carried out the preaching of the gospel of Christ” (Rm. 15:19). Paul was deeply concerned about every people and every Christian community. He felt an obligation to proclaim the Gospel to everyone, making no distinctions with regard to age, race, social class, culture or nationality: “For though I am free with respect to all, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in 5
order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though I myself am not under the law) so that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law) so that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, so that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some” (1 Co. 9:19-22). “I am a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish–hence my eagerness to proclaim the gospel to you also who are in Rome” (Rm. 1:14-15). His exclamation, “Woe to me if I do not proclaim the gospel!” was motivated by obedience to God and to the command he received. It was his response to his call to the apostolate–a call that bore an obligation. This obligation also became his defense before his accusers. Paul’s Pastoral Spirit: His Heartfelt Proclamation of the Gospel and Readiness To Adapt Himself to Persons and Situations Paul’s model was Christ, the Good Shepherd who, through his incarnation and message, adapted himself in the most splendid way possible to every human situation. Paul adapted his language to his communities, assuming tones of sternness or gentleness, persuasion or rebuke, according to the need. He proposed the Gospel or reconfirmed his initial proclamation, defending or clarifying it according to the circumstances. Each of Paul’s letters reflects this local application (usually in his opening remarks), while the body of the text avoids theoretical, generic or abstract discourses. Several basic pastoral principles can be drawn from Peter’s exhortation to the elders (1 Pt. 5:2-3) and from Paul’s words to the pastors of Ephesus (Acts 20). The two texts complement and complete each other. “Look after the flock of God whose shepherds you are; do it, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have it, not for gain but out of sheer devotion; not lording it over your charges, but setting an example to the flock” (1 Pt. 5:2-3). “Keep watch over yourselves and over all the flock, of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God…. I coveted no one’s silver or gold or clothing. You know for yourselves that I worked with my own hands to support myself and my companions” (Acts 20:28, 33-34). These two texts, which are based on the model of the Good Shepherd, offer important guidelines as to how to evangelize most effectively. They can be summarized as follows: 1) Vigilance with regard to doctrine, faith and the persons entrusted to one’s care. Paul’s two Letters to Timothy are excellent examples of this responsibility (1 Tm. 1:3; 4:1-7; above all 4:16: “Keep close watch on yourself and on your teaching”; 1 Tm. 6:20; 2 Tm. 4:1ff.). Colossians 2:16-23 reflects Paul’s concern that this community (as well as those of Corinth and Galatia) not deviate in matters of faith and conduct: “Do not let anyone condemn you in matters of food and drink or of observing festivals, new moons, or sabbaths. These are only a shadow of what is to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. Do not let anyone disqualify you, insisting on self-abasement and worship of angels, dwelling on visions, puffed up without cause by a human way of thinking, and not holding fast to the head (…). If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the universe, why do you live as if you still belonged to the world? Why do you submit to regulations, ‘Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch’? All these regulations refer to things that perish with use; they are simply human commands and teachings. These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting selfimposed piety, humility, and severe treatment of the body, but they are of no value in checking self-indulgence.” 6
He also offered his pastors solicitous recommendations: “A bishop, as God’s steward…must have a firm grasp of the word that is trustworthy and in accordance with the teaching, so that he may be able both to preach with sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict it” (Titus 1:9). 2) Self-denial, which should be limitless and uncalculated: “Here I am, ready to come to you for the third time and I am not going to be a burden on you: it is not your possessions that I want, but yourselves. Children are not expected to save up for their parents, but parents for their children, and I am more than glad to spend what I have and to be spent for the sake of your souls. Is it because I love you so much more, that I am loved the less?’”(2 Co. 12:14-15) Even more, unselfishness, that is, total selflessness, as a law of preaching the Gospel. Gestures of disinterested generosity should be spontaneous and joyful: “Each of you must give as you have decided on your own initiative, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Co. 9:7); without expecting any reward: “I have never availed myself of any rights” (1 Co. 9:15), says Paul. 3) An example to others, that is, a model for the flock. Paul often held his behavior up as a model to the Christians, defending it without false modesty: “Brothers and sisters, join in imitating me, and observe those who live according to the example you have in us” (Phil. 3:17), to the point of being proud of the fact that Timothy followed his teaching and imitated his conduct (cf. 2 Tm. 3:10). This behavior was aimed at a specific goal: “to shepherd” the flock, which included enlightening it, guiding it and nourishing the spirit and conscience of its members. In short: it meant being a teacher and parent at one and the same time. 4) Prayer. Paul carried out his entire apostolic mission in an attitude of profound prayer. The Apostle felt a powerful need to pray for his followers and to offer thanks because he was keenly aware that God bestows many mysterious gifts on those who believe in him. He blessed and praised the Living God in what can be called a canticle of life, adoring him because he is the absolute Lord of all and makes up for our human limitations. He begged God to grant his children knowledge, progress and perseverance in the Gospel. Paul’s prayer served as a bridge, uniting him to his followers despite distance and problems. In fact, he urged them: “Pray for us so that the word of the Lord may spread rapidly and be glorified everywhere” (2 Th. 3:1). “Constantly ask God’s help in prayer, and pray always in the power of the Spirit…. Pray also for me, that I may be granted the right words when I speak, and may boldly and freely make known the hidden purpose of the gospel” (Eph. 6:18-19). On his part, he prayed continually for each community. This prayer consisted of thanksgiving, praise and intercession: for example, his thanksgiving to God at the beginning of the Letter to the Philippians (1:3ff.) and the Corinthians (2 Co. 1:3ff.), and his splendid prayer in the Letter to the Ephesians (3:14ff.: “I bow my knees before the Father…”) are extraordinary echoes of his constant reassurance: “We always pray for you, asking that our God will make you worthy of his call” (2 Th. 1:11ff.); “I give thanks to my God always on your account for the grace of God bestowed on you in Christ Jesus” (1 Co. 1:4); and yet again: “We pray to God that you may not do anything wrong…” (2 Co. 13:7ff.). In conclusion, we can say that Paul’s pastoral spirit was based above all on a faith, hope and supernatural love that did not exclude the most noble natural ethics of sincerity and frankness (far from it!): “Was I vacillating when I wanted to [carry out this project]? Do I make my plans acording to ordinary human standards, ready to say ‘yes, yes,’ and ‘no, no’ at the same time?” (2 Co. 1:17) It also included optimism, an integral element deriving from a “sense of God” that stands in contrast to the sadness of a world that produces death (2 Co. 7:8-10). Uncompromising and vigilant with regard to his principles, Paul continued to love others and he was not indifferent to the ennobling values of beauty and perfection: “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is 7
commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Phil. 4:8). He behaved in an honorable, respectable way in society: “We urge you…to behave properly toward outsiders and be dependent on no one” (1 Th. 4:12). His financial independence (2 Co. 9:8), the result of his own hard work (Eph. 4:28; Acts 20:34), was also praiseworthy.
PAUL’S CONCEPT OF THE APOSTLE The Pauline Family takes Paul and his words as its model of life and apostolate. In fact, Fr. Alberione himself proposed the Apostle as our “father, teacher, exemplar and founder” (AD 2). In the light of Paul’s example and words, who is a true apostle? 1. An instrument chosen and sent out by God (Rm. 1:1; Ga. 1:15; Acts 9:15) The idea and the initiative come from God; it is up to the person chosen to place him/herself at the Lord’s disposition. Apostles are called to carry out a service (a vocation to ministry): “What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you came to believe” (1 Co. 3:5). “We are servants of Christ and stewards of God’s mysteries. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy” (1 Co. 4:1-2). “As his fellow-workers, we urge you…” (2 Co. 6:1). “You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all; and you show that you are a letter of Christ, prepared by us, his ministers” (cf. 2 Co. 3:2-3, 6). This call originates in God and finds its strength in him: “But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us” (2 Co. 4:7). 2. A life placed at the disposition of God “Paul and Barnabas have risked their lives for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 15:26), giving him everything: “All this I do for the sake of the Gospel” (1 Co. 9:23), to the point of self-consummation: “As for me, I am already being poured out as a libation, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Tm. 4:6-7), everywhere that this was necessary and possible: “From Jerusalem and as far around as Illyricum I have fully proclaimed the good news of Christ” (Rm. 15:19). 3. A life focused on Christ: mind and feelings in Christ; desires, will, and a total orientation toward Christ; motivations and actions in and for Christ. From the moment of his call, Paul knew nothing but Christ, who became his entire life (cf. Ga. 2:20); “Christ will be glorified in my body, whether by my life or my death” (Phil. 1:20). Rooted, built up and established in Christ, he urged his followers to adopt the same type of life (cf. Col. 2:6-7). He judged everything to be rubbish compared to Christ, his Lord (Phil. 3:8). 4. Like Jesus and Paul, an apostle is keenly aware of being: - A preacher (minister of the Word). Paul declared that he was sent to preach, not to baptize: “Christ sent me to preach the gospel, and not with the wisdom of human eloquence…” (1 Co. 1:17); “In everything we prove ourselves to be authentic servants of God…in the word of truth” (2 Co. 6:4, 7). At the beginning, he was called “to bring my name” (Acts 9:15) and toward the end of his life he could joyously exclaim: “I have fully carried out the preaching of the Gospel of Christ” (Rm. 15:19). -
A prophet (due to the prophetic nature of the proclamation): Paul was made “a light to the Gentiles” (Acts 13:47) and sent “to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God” (Acts 26:18).
A witness of what he/she has seen, and of his/her personal experience of God. For Paul, the act of witnessing was a natural consequence of his personal encounter with Christ: “I 9
have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness of what you have seen of me and what you will be shown” (Acts 26:16); “God chose to reveal his Son in me” (cf. Ga. 1:16). This revelation became a part of Paul’s very life and he passed it on to his followers: “I handed on to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins…” (1 Co. 15:1-3). -
A suffering servant, who offers his/her sufferings for the Gospel. Suffering is an integral part of God’s call: “I myself will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name” (Acts 9:16). In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul fervently listed his sufferings for the sake of the Gospel: “Are they Hebrews? So am I. Israelites? So am I. Abraham’s descendents? So am I. Are they ministers of Christ? I am talking like a madman–I am a better one: with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless floggings, and often near death. Five times I have received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I received a stoning. Three times I was shipwrecked; for a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from bandits, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers and sisters; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, hungry and thirsty, often without food, cold and naked. And, besides other things, I am under daily pressure because of my anxiety for all the churches” (2 Co. 11:22-28). This account is in close agreement with what Paul said a few chapters earlier when he spoke about “…endurance in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonment, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger…” (2 Co. 6:4-5). He embraced all of this joyfully: “It is my joy to suffer for you…” (Col. 1:24) and “if my blood is to be poured out to complete the sacrifice and offering up of your faith, then I rejoice and share my joy with you all” (Phil. 2:17), because he considered it a privilege not only to believe in Christ but also to suffer for him (cf. Phil. 1:29).
THE APOSTLE’S INTERIOR TRAITS Toward those to whom he directed his message and apostolic activities, that is, the Churches he founded and their individual members: a) Paul had very strong fatherly feelings, a spiritual/human bond with many facets ranging from love to well-merited jealousy: “We have spoken frankly to you Corinthians; our heart is wide open to you…in return, open wide your hearts also” (2 Co. 6:11-13), and again: “Make room in your hearts for us…for I have said before that you are in our hearts, to die together and to live together” (2 Co. 7:2ff. and the entire chapter). “Here I am, ready to come to you for the third time and I am not going to be a burden on you: it is not your possessions that I want, but yourselves. Children are not expected to save up for their parents, but parents for their children, and I am more than glad to spend what I have and to be spent for the sake of your souls. Is it because I love you so much more, that I am loved the less?” (2 Co. 12:14-15) And again to the Corinthians: “I feel a divine jealousy for you, for I promised you in marriage to one husband, to present you as a chaste virgin to Christ” (2 Co. 11:1). To the Thessalonians and the Philippians, he said: “For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? Yes, you are our glory and joy!” (1 Th. 2:19) “I hold you in my heart, you who are all partners with me in grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:7-8). As a father, he felt he had the right to intervene in the life and journey of his communities. This can be seen in the freedom and authoritativeness with which he wrote to, exhorted and corrected his followers. As a father, Paul longed to be with his children: “I am longing to see you…” he said to the Romans (1:11), and to the Corinthians: “I do not want this to be a flying visit; I hope to spend some time with you” (1 Co. 17:7). The absence of his children created an emptiness within him that the presence of other of his children partially filled: “I rejoice in the coming of…., because they have made up for your absence” (1 Co. 16:18). His paternity was active, attentive, industrious, aimed at helping his communities grow in faith, love and peace. All this, the content of his life and his letters, is summarized in his farewell address to the elders of Ephesus (Acts 20:17f.). Paul felt that giving life through the Gospel was just as powerful–if not more so–than giving life through the flesh: “For though you might have ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers. Indeed, in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel” (1 Co. 4:15). Even more: “I am going through the pain of giving birth to you all over again, until Christ is formed in you” (Ga. 4:1920). b) The conviction that he was duty-bound to announce the Gospel: “If I proclaim the gospel, this gives me no ground for boasting, for an obligation is laid on me, and woe to me if I do not proclaim the gospel!” (1 Co. 9:16-17) Consequently: “I am a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish” (Rm. 1:14). He was proud of this obligation: “I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith…” (Rm. 1:16). c) A prompt and available spirit. He wrote to the Romans: “That is why I am eager to preach the gospel also to you in Rome” (1:15), and to the Corinthians: “Though I am free with respect to all, I have made myself a slave to all” (1 Co. 9:19). In his farewell to the elders of Ephesus, he said: “I did not shrink at all from telling you what was for your benefit, or from teaching you in public or in your homes” (Acts 20:20). 11
d) A positive attitude, because his followers possessed values and merits that he publicly acknowledged, using these as a starting point for their future journey. At the beginning of every letter and frequently also within the body of the text, Paul thanked God for the spiritual benefits poured out on his children. The Apostle’s praise and gratitude to God were a sincere expression of his happiness regarding this state of affairs and reveal that he participated in the good of his children: “You yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, and able to instruct one another” (Rm. 15:14). “I thank my God for all of you because your faith is proclaimed throughout the world” (Rm. 1:8). “As you are rich in everything–faith, eloquence, understanding, concern for everything, and love for us too–then make sure that you excel in this work of generosity too” (2 Co. 8:7). This attitude gave him the freedom to ask many favors of his communities: that they make financial contributions to the poor, welcome a brother, restore peace among themselves…. e) Dependence on God. Paul depended on God for the results of his evangelization because “it is not the gardeners with their planting and watering who count, but God who makes it grow” (1 Co. 3:7). Thus he looked with hope to the fruits that God would bestow: “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling for it is God who, for his own generous purpose, gives you the intention and the powers to act” (Phil. 2:12-13). This dependence on God was the source of Paul’s patience and farsightedness, two constant attitudes that were rooted in his awareness of the fact that he was wrapped in God’s great mystery of salvation–a mystery regarding which he voiced a profoundly beautiful hymn praising the wisdom of God, whose judgements are unsearchable and whose ways are inscrutable (cf. Rm. 11:33). Paul did not seek his own good but that of the others (his basic moral imperative). He did not lord it over their faith but instead was keenly aware that he was simply an instrument of God: “I always try to be considerate to everyone, not seeking my own good but the good of the many, so that they may be saved” (1 Co. 10:33).
TO BE PAUL TODAY Paul’s concrete rapport with the individual members of the faithful and with his collaborators in his work of evangelization is very enlightening and offers us a model for our own relationships with the persons with whom we come in contact in our mission–those to whom we proclaim Jesus. 1. Paul’s rapport with others was “filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 13:52) because he was overflowing with joy, even in the midst of his sufferings. He was so convinced that there were numerous reasons for a Christian to be joyful that he insistently invited everyone to share this experience: “Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality” in hope and in the Lord. “Rejoice in the Lord always” (Phil. 4:4). He invited Christians to manifest their joy to everyone (Phil. 4:5), to live in a spirit of joy (1 Th. 5:16) and to share the joy of others: “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep” (Rm. 12:15; cf. 2 Co. 7:13). He also invited them to do good to others, to dedicate themselves joyfully to their well being: “Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Co. 9:7). The element of joy, which springs from peace and tranquillity of spirit, was so deeply rooted in Paul that he found profound satisfaction in preaching the Gospel, even though others carried out the same mission for less worthy or even petty reasons: “What does it matter? Only that in both ways, whether with false motives or true, Christ is proclaimed, and for that I am happy; and I shall go on being happy, too, because I know that this is what will save me, with your prayers and with the support of the Spirit of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:18-19). At the highest point of love, his joy was tranformed into substance and person as he identified with his children: “You are my joy” (cf. Phil. 4:1). 2. His rapport with others was characterized by attentiveness to the person before him, the ability and desire to identify with that individual on the human and affective levels. This attentiveness can perhaps be compared to Jesus’ attentiveness to the rich young man, or to the hungry crowd, which moved him to compassion (Mt. 14:13). Once again, Paul’s farewell address to the elders of Ephesus offers us an example of an attitude we presume he adopted everywhere: “Remember how night and day for three years I never slackened in counselling each one of you with tears…” (Acts 20:31). 3. Paul understood the value of each individual and thus he offered others unstinting praise and encouragement, acknowledging their merits and gifts. His speech in the areopagus of Athens (Acts 17:22-31), masterly in its eloquence and in the presentation of his subject, is also important because of the tactful expressions he used when addressing one group or another to encourage them to accept his words, his call, a Person…. 4. He made a genuine effort to find the tone and language suited to his audience: “How I wish I could be there with you at this moment and find the right way of talking to you: I am quite at a loss with you” (Ga. 4:20; 1 Co. 3:1-2). He wanted his words to be effective and he prayed for this: “Pray also for me, that I may be granted the right words when I speak, and may boldly and freely make known the hidden purpose of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador–in chains. Pray that I may speak of it boldly” (Eph. 6:19-20). He was concerned to reveal the mystery of Christ clearly, “as I should” (Col. 4:4). He took advantage of every opportunity that arose, acting with tranquil daring and apostolic passion as, for example, when standing before Agrippa, he noticed the 13
king’s keen attention and threw him an unexpected question, hoping to surprise him into a public confession: “‘King Agrippa, do you believe in the prophets? I know you do.’ Agrippa said to Paul, ‘With a little more of your persuasion, you will make a Christian of me.’ ‘Little or much,’ said Paul, ‘I wish to God that not only you, but all those who are listening to me today, might become what I am–apart from these chains!’” (Acts 26:27-29) 5. Paul was ready to dialogue with everyone, to offer the Gospel to everyone, without distinctions or exclusions: Jews, pagans, Epicurean philosophers (Acts 17:18), well-disposed individuals like Lydia (Acts 16:14), or persons unwilling to listen to him as, for instance, was often the case with the Jews. But in spite of this, in every city he visited, Paul always gave privilege to announcing his message first to the Jews in their synagogues. He was ready to go wherever he was called or wherever there was need (Rm. 1:15: “I am eager to preach the gospel also to you in Rome.”) He addressed the Churches of Asia and other regions of the Empire; he spoke to people of every condition and situation: people in turmoil; prisoners (cf. Acts 16:32); sailors on the ships on which he travelled; the pagans of Malta; anyone who came to visit him while he was under house arrest in Rome: “He remained for two full years in his lodgings. He received all who came to him, and with complete assurance and without hindrance he proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 28:30). Obviously, the list of those to whom Paul proclaimed his message also includes the poor, the ignorant, the stubborn, those who disliked him…. He felt an obligation to proclaim Christ to every individual. 6. His method was to enlist the help of others in carrying out his mission. Paul communicated his ideal to others so successfully that many people caught his enthusiasm and shared his joys, worries and labors. His brief mention of his collaborators in his letters provides us with their names and a few of their spiritual traits. Paul had quite a few helpers besides Barnabas, Silas, Timothy and Luke, all of whom accompanied him on various trips. Others were Aristarchus, Apollus, Tychicus, Trophimus, Artemis…. Some were priests and bishops, like Titus and Timothy, but the majority were lay people. The mission to which Paul associated them was not an easy one: Mark couldn’t take it and Demas deserted the Apostle during his time of need (2 Tm. 4:9). Others also abandoned him but new members joined the team and the majority remained faithful. Paul’s collaborators preached alongside him (1 Co. 1:19; Acts 17:4), completed his work in newly-founded Churches (Acts 19:22), and founded communities independently of Paul, for example, Epaphrus in Colossae (Col. 1:7) and Titus in Dalmatia (2 Tm. 4:10). Some remained behind as his representatives when he had to leave a city, as in the case of Silas and Timothy, who remained in Beroea (Acts 17:14), and Titus in Crete, “to put in order what remained to be done” (Titus 1:5). Timothy and Titus were later sent to Corinth to strengthen the faith of the Christians there and reestablish Paul’s authority (1 Co. 16:16; 2 Co. 8:23). Some collaborators, like Tertius, helped Paul as secretaries by writing down the letters he dictated (Rm. 16:22), while others, like Tychicus and Titus, acted as mail carriers (Col. 4:7; 2 Co. 8:6-17). Even during his imprisonment, Paul was able to continue his apostolate by making use of this extensive “diplomatic corps”: he sent Crescens to Galatia (2 Tm. 4:10), Titus to Dalmatia, Artemis to Crete and Tychicus to Ephesus to replace Timothy. Paul’s cooperators also included families: Aquila and Prisca (who offered him hospitality, risked their lives for him and also evangelized Apollos) (Rm. 16:3-4), and many women: Mary, who “worked hard” on behalf of the Christians of Rome (Rm. 16:6); Tryphaena, Tryphosa, Persis, Phoebe, Lydia, Euodia and Syntyche who, Paul says, “struggled beside me
in the work of the gospel, together with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life” (Phil. 4:2-3). Thus, while Paul possessed a strong sense of personal responsibility to the Gospel which prompted him to exclaim: “Woe to me if I do not evangelize!” at the same time he possessed a powerful sense of the Church, which grew and developed with the help of many people. Consequently, Paul did not behave self-sufficiently. 7. Problems abounded in Paul’s work. They sprang from the persons he evangelized (for example, the Corinthians), from external trouble-makers (as in the case of the Galatians), from the Jews or the pagans, who were always laying traps for him, and from various circumstances, such as storms at sea, his various health problems and other physical/moral burdens. 8. Even when far away, Paul followed the progress of each person and community by means of thought, prayer and fasting: “They also appointed for them elders in each congregation, and with prayer and fasting committed them to the Lord in whom they had put their trust” (cf. Acts 14:23). Paul’s love for his children in the Lord was concretized even across the miles by his repeated assurances in his letters of his remembrance of them, a moving example of which can be found in Philippians, chapters 1 and 2, which was written during his imprisonment in Rome. 9. Communication flowed between Paul and his collaborators and their brothers and sisters in the Churches, because the Apostle viewed this exchange of information as a necessary means of sharing and evaluating his work: “When they arrived, they called the church together and related all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith for the Gentiles” (Acts 14:27-28). Paul remained in touch with his collaborators when they were far away, communicating with them through messengers so as to learn how their communities were faring. He kept in touch with them even in the midst of fatiguing and problem-filled journeys. He communicated by maintaining vibrant relations with many people and communities. Paul made wide and confident use of all the means of communication available in his time, since he believed that it was necessary to place the best inventions of culture and progress at the service of the Gospel. Paul saw letters as an instrument of evangelization: a way to communicate the Faith and offer guidelines for Christian behavior. They mirror his apostolic life. They are instruments of teaching and of spiritual guidance. Paul transformed a secular means of communication into an apostolic instrument, and he used this instrument to the full, pouring into it all his energy and resources. The Letters of Paul are an extraordinary contribution to the Bible.
ST. PAUL THE APOSTLE Father, Teacher, Exemplar, Protector Your model, teacher and protector in the work of sanctification and zeal is the great Apostle, St. Paul (Appunti Regolamento, 1916, 1/2). About zeal. This should be your distinguishing quality: to help your neighbors save themselves. Help them in a way suited to the needs of the time and according to each one’s aptitudes. In this work, all you have to do is imitate the great Apostle, St. Paul, who never spared himself when it came to saving souls (Appunti Regolamento, 1916, 5/2). The life of the Pauline Family springs from the Eucharist, but it is communicated to us by St. Paul. Thus we owe our heartfelt gratitude to Jesus, the Divine Master, in his sacrament of light and love; to the Queen of Apostles, our Mother and the Mother of every apostolate; and to St. Paul the Apostle, who is the true Founder of our Institute. In fact, he is its Father, Teacher, Exemplar, Protector. He intervened to give life to this Family in such a physical and spiritual way that even now, when we reflect on it, we can’t fully grasp it, much less explain it. Everything is his. He, the most complete interpreter of the Divine Master, applied the Gospel to the nations and drew the nations to Christ. He is a vibrant and fundamental presence with regard to theology, the moral life, the organization of the Church, the adaptation of the apostolate and of its intruments to the times, and he will remain so until the end of time. Paul gave impetus, enlightenment and nourishment to everything. He was the guide, bursar, defender and support of the Pauline Family wherever it was established. It was appropriate that our first church be dedicated to him and also the “Glory” (a marble carving) that depicts him in his apostolate and in his role as father of the Paulines. It didn’t happen as it does when a person or institute chooses a protector. We didn’t choose St. Paul; instead, he chose us (cf. CVV 212). Sons and daughters receive the heritage of their father. Sons and Daughters of St. Paul, embrace with joy the heritage of your Father, St. Paul: his wisdom, his advice, his example with regard to every virtue, his spirit of piety, his zeal for all souls, for all peoples. Always keep in mind the various nations: for you, there are no races, only souls created for heaven and redeemed by the blood of Jesus. And Jesus invites everyone to his school: “Come to me, all of you” (CVV 195/3). St. Paul is our model. He says: “Imitate me, as I imitate Jesus Christ.” He offers himself as an example–not an absolute example, but as the form to follow in imitating Jesus Christ, who is the absolute example of every perfection. He says: “I made myself your model.” What does this mean? When you impaginate a book, you place the model or form in the machine. That model, that form, will be used to print other copies. Paul is our model, the form to be used in “printing” Paulines according to the divine “model.” This is a grace for us. The Lord offers us this model: “Conform yourselves to your Father,” that is, “May you be printed from the same model or form.” In making the statue of St. Paul, first the mold (form) was cast and then it was filled with cement or chalk. Let us consider St. Paul to be our model or “form.” He is our model for every virtue and for the apostolate. Let us imitate his virtues both in the apostolate and in our personal life (May 1954). If St. Paul were alive today, he would still be burning with that dual flame that springs from one and the same fire: zeal for God and his Christ, and for the people of every nation. And to make himself heard, he would mount the highest pulpits and multiply his words through the 16
media that present-day progress has provided: the press, motion pictures, radio and television. His doctrine would be neither cold nor abstract. When Paul arrived in a city, he did not simply appear for an occasional conference; rather, he remained and he formed. He won intellectual assent, persuading and converting, joining people to Christ, and launching them into a fully Christian way of life (cf. Sources of the FSP Constitutions, article 9, p. 19) J. Alberione Prayer to St. Paul Glorious St. Paul, from a persecutor of Christianity, you became a very ardent and zealous apostle, and suffered imprisonment, scourging, stoning, shipwreck and endured persecutions of every kind, in order to make the Savior Jesus Christ known to the farthest bounds of the world. In the end you shed your blood to the last drop. Obtain for us the grace to accept the infirmities, afflictions and misfortunes of the present life as favors of the divine mercy, so that the vicissitudes of this our exile may not make us grow cold in the service of God, but may make us ever more faithful and more fervent. Amen.
Fr. Alberione took not only St. Paul’s name and protection but (…) above all the ideal that inspired him and his spiritual nourishment. Thus he proposed to himself and to those already collaborating with his initiatives, as you are doing today, a line of apostolic action that was open, updated, modern and in harmony with the teachings and examples of the Apostle. Just as Paul continually sought new forms and courageous methods of announcing Christ and his mystery to the peoples (…), so it is up to you to choose him so as to be confirmed in your specific vocation. John Paul II, Audience with the Pauline Family, 21 March 1983 Always call yourselves Paulines: Jesus drew Paul to himself, and Paul, grafted onto Christ, produced the fruits of Christ. But to become genuine apostles of Christ, you must keep your gaze fixed on his face (Heb. 12:2). Do not hesitate to put out into the depths of the boundless ocean of contemporary humanity. Seek to stir up within yourselves the sentiments that inflamed the heart of Paul, who exclaimed: “Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!” (1 Co. 9:16) May this yearning consume your entire existence. John Paul II, Audience with the Daughters of St. Paul Chapter Delegates, 14 Sept. 2001