Sunday, October 25, 2015

Why? Oh, why, St. Paul?

Why? Oh, why, St. Paul? For what purpose are you telling us that you are not ashamed of the gospel? Have you been accused of being ashamed? Are you saying that the Roman Christians were ashamed of the gospel? Are you saying that we are ashamed of the gospel?

Was St. Paul ever ashamed of the Gospel? No, that is what he lived for. He was accused of many things, but I do not think that being ashamed of the gospel he preached was one of those things. He faced death many times on account of the gospel he preached?

When I was a protestant, the preachers would be emphasizing the need to go out and not be ashamed to proclaim the gospel to nonbelievers. Was St. Paul implying that the Roman Christians were ashamed of the gospel in some way? Was he saying they were ashamed of the gospel because they held their Masses in catacombs instead of openly? No, he probably preached numerous times in those catacombs. In Verse 8 he had just expressed to them his thankfulness because their faith was being proclaimed in all the world. This manifests that their faith was not hidden, was not obscure. Therefore, why does he say, “So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome, for I am not ashamed of the gospel? They had to have heard the gospel because “[their] faith is proclaimed in all the world.”

Was St. Paul implying that the Roman Christians were ashamed of the gospel in some way? Yes. St. Paul was exhorting them because of their faith; however, he was showing them that they were exhibiting a shamefulness to the gospel by way of their manner of living. This can be concluded from Verse 18, where he speaks about wickedness suppressing the truth. Wickedness is deeds of death; sin is deeds of death. In Verse 17, the apostle asserts, “He who through faith is righteous shall live.” Life is deeds of goodness, of holiness. In deeds of life, the gospel is not hidden.

Is St. Paul telling us that we are ashamed of the gospel? Most assuredly. The Word of God is not composed of “dead” letters. It is alive and most powerful. Although we look back historically and learn, we must see this as being directed to us. St. Paul is alive today, for “he who believes in Me shall never die.” He is thanking God for all of us, because our faith, the Catholic faith, is proclaimed in all the world. St. Paul still serves God with his spirit in the gospel of His Son. He, without ceasing mentions us always in his prayers. He still longs to see us, that he may impart to us some spiritual gift to strengthen us. He also continues to be encouraged by our faith as we are with his. Hence, he is telling us that in many ways we are ashamed of the gospel. In what ways?

We are ashamed of the gospel when we cause division in the Catholic Church, when we are not united. The Head of the Catholic Church is Jesus Christ. When disagree with the doctrines and dogmas of the Church, we disagree with Jesus Christ; therefore, we exhibit that we are ashamed of the gospel. When we are not opposed to contraception, we are ashamed of the gospel. When we believe that there is nothing wrong with homosexual acts, we are ashamed of the gospel. When we believe the world is more accurate in some things than what the Church teaches as doctrine and dogmas, we exhibit that we are ashamed of the gospel. We are calling good, bad; and we are calling bad, good. Claiming to be wise with the Wisdom of God, we have become fools. We have exchanged the Wisdom of God for the wisdom of the world. Every time we sin, we conceal righteousness, the gospel, as if we are ashamed. One of the prevailing excuses people give as to the reason they do not go to church is that Christians are just as bad, if not worse, than they themselves. This is because Christians many times are ashamed of the gospel.

St. Paul is telling us that he is not ashamed of the gospel because he lives the gospel. Because he lives the gospel, he has joy. This is not a joy where he walks around with a smile on his face at all times, exhibiting “feelings” that he truly does not have. Was he smiling when he wrote to the Galatians? No, absolutely not. The joy he has is love of God and love of neighbor and serving them with joy. This joy comes from obedience to the gospel, living the gospel. It is a joy of belonging, belonging to a real family, a family that loves with the love of God—the Catholic Church. Does each person perfectly love like this? No, but each has a portion of this love, and knows where to direct someone for help in the rest, the full portion of this love—once again, the Catholic Church. One has to look at the Catholic Church as a whole. We are not a family that rebels, wanting our own way, desiring our way of thinking to be the right way; we are a family that loves, desiring the best for each other, making everyone else more important than ourselves. Individually, we may not have arrived at the goal yet, but we are growing into that by virtue of the Catholic Church and the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist.
--Tommy Turner

This theological reflection courtesy of the parishioners of St Paul Catholic Church in Pensacola, Florida: stpaulcatholic.net