Scripture Reading for Today: Romans 1:1-7 (read it here)
In his letter to the Romans, Paul writes to a church he did not know personally, and in which he had never been. He was writing to a church which was situated in the greatest city in the greatest empire in the world. And because of that he chose his words and thoughts with the greatest care.
Paul begins by giving his own credentials. First, he calls himself the “slave” of Jesus Christ. Paul thinks of himself as the undisputed possession of Jesus Christ, his Master and his Lord. Jesus has loved him and given himself for him, and therefore Paul is sure that he no longer belongs to himself, but entirely to Jesus.
Paul also describes himself as “called to be an apostle,” as someone who is being “sent” to do a task. Paul never thinks of himself as someone who aspires to an honor; but as one to whom a task has been given. Paul does not think of life in terms of what he wants to do, but in terms of what God wants him to do.
He thinks of God as separating him for the task he is to do even before he was born. In other words, for every person, God has a plan; and we are not purposeless. God sends Paul into the world to do some definite thing for his Church; namely, to take the Gospel to the Gentiles.
In this setting apart, Paul is aware of having received “grace.” Grace always describes some gift that is absolutely free and unearned.
In his pre-Christian days Paul sought to earn glory in the eyes of other people and merit in the sight of God by meticulous observance of the works of the law; but he has found no peace that way.
Now he knows that what matters is not what he can do, but what God has done. Paul now sees that salvation depends not on what our effort can do, but on what God’s love has done; and, all is of grace, free and undeserved.
Besides giving his own credentials, Paul also sets out in its most essential outline the gospel that he preached. First, it is a gospel that is centered on Jesus Christ.
In particular, it is a gospel of the Incarnation. Paul tells of a Jesus who is really and truly a man. One of the great early thinkers of the Church summed it up when he said of Jesus, “He became what we are, to make us what he is.”
Paul preaches of someone who is not a legendary figure in an imaginary story, not a demigod, half god and half man. Rather, he preaches of one who is really and truly one with us whom he comes to save.
Paul preaches the gospel of the Resurrection. If Jesus had lived a lovely life and died a heroic death, and if that had been the end of him, he might have been numbered with the great and the heroic, but he would simply have been one among many.
Jesus’ uniqueness is guaranteed forever by the fact of the Resurrection. The others are dead and gone and have left a memory. Jesus lives on and gives us a presence, still mighty with power.
In the bread and wine of the Eucharist we meet Christ our Lord, and from him we receive the grace to serve him.
Let us serve him with all our heart, mind, and strength.
Guided by Mary, let us always be aware of his presence among us.
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Let us make this a blessed day.
Keep Jesus in your mind and heart and share him with all you meet.
Fr. Michael Brizio, IMC
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