C Cycle – 14th Sunday of Ordinary Time 19
Lk. 10: 1-12, 17-20
Months after I was ordained a friend of my daughter asked me who my favorite Theologian was. I was quick to say Paul the Apostle. Her response was to say why Paul and not Hans Kung, Thomas Aquinas, Avery Dulles, Thomas Merton, Karl Rahner or Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict). Why would I put Paul in such esteemed company not to mention those in the early years of the Church like Augustine or Ambrose.
Think about it, Paul the Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee, who was a disciple of the greatest Pharisee Gamaliel. Paul who with all his knowledge of the Scriptures and his knowledge of the Law absolutely denied Jesus was the Messiah. Paul, who with the approval of the Sanhedrin arrested those who professed Jesus as the Christ and brought them back to Jerusalem to be imprisoned, tortured, stoned with the intent to eradicate them. His mind was so was so fixed on his understanding of what the Messiah should be or do could not see beyond his intellect. Jesus could not be the promised Messiah.
Think of the question Jesus posed to Paul as he appeared to him on the road to Damascus. Paul with all your learning why do you not believe. Why with all you know are you blinded to the truth. It took that encounter on the road to Damascus for Paul to begin to understand. It took the obedience and courage of Ananias to pray over Paul for the Holy Spirit to fill him and give him sight.
Why is what happened to Paul important for us to understand?
Jesus in that upper room the night before He died spoke of the Holy Spirits coming to teach us and remind us, US YOU AND ME, of all Jesus ever said and did. Jesus also said that Spirit would pour the love of God into our hearts, glorify Jesus, teach us the truth about sin and would change our hearts. With all that going on inside Paul on that day as The Spirit filled Paul, he was able to see God’s plan as revealed in the prophesies, the promises and understood God’s desire for an intimate relationship with those he created – us.
Paul’s letters provided us the foundation of understanding our destiny as disciples and much of our theology today about Eucharist, forgiveness, community and the church. He did not have the advantage of being in the presence of Jesus for three years as the disciples did. He did not even have the opportunity to learn from them or to be mentored. No instead he was shipped off to places removed from Jerusalem with Barnabas as a companion.
We hear Paul in his letter to the Galatians’s telling us his only boast is in the cross of Jesus Christ. We hear him in his letter to the Corinthians saying he wants to know nothing but Him and Him crucified (1 Cor.2:2). Paul tells us in his letter to the Philippians he wants to know nothing but the power flowing from his resurrection (Phl. 3:10). There can be no doubt about the impact of Paul on the growth of the church and the solid teaching he provides to guide us to understand the love of God, the gift of Jesus, the forgiveness of our sins and our need to respond to the plan of God for our lives.
The fact is we worry far too much about if our lives are pleasing to God.
Think about Paul for a minute. Before he had his encounter with Christ, he was an instrument of the evil inflicted on those who professed Jesus Christ as the Messiah. Yet, did Jesus condemn him when he stood before him? No, he did not, instead he only posed a question to Paul – why. Paul could not see how his intellect blocked his ability to see who Jesus is and what he offers. Do we like Paul seek knowledge without seeking the giver of that knowledge? Like Bartimaeus we must offer a prayer to God and ask to be able to see the freedom God offers us by acknowledging Jesus as Lord.
Instead of seeking more knowledge we should be opening ourselves for an encounter with Christ. If each of us open ourselves to embrace what Christ offers, we like the disciples in today’s gospel will go out and proclaim the Kingdom of God is at hand. That message of proclaiming the kingdom of God is your task as well as the ordained and those in consecrated lives.
It is your mission and our catechism states we are empowered by your baptism to go spread the good news. Every member of the Church is responsible for telling the story of God’s desire. His desire to embrace us, love us, forgive us and embrace the mercy offered us by the life death and resurrection of Jesus. Like Paul we need to invite the transforming power of the Holy Spirit into your hearts and spread the good news that Our God is a God of Mercy, Love and Forgiveness.
One thing I have learned over the 21 years since my ordination is my gift is to be a seed planter. Any impact I may have had on people was hopefully to help them discover the God Paul encountered that day on the road to Damascus and the God Anne and I discovered because other people challenged us because they encountered God’s forgiveness. You have that same ability to do what the disciples did in the gospel today – proclaim the life changing reality of a personal encounter with God.
Without that personal encounter we like Paul will rely on our intellect to understand the things of God. Theology is said to be faith seeking understanding and many of us spend our time seeking to understand. Paul shows us how wrong our understanding can be and shows us without believing in the promises of God we will never understand.