While immorality is on the rise and as philosophies and ideologies are created to justify sinful behavior, Satan is always whispering into the ears of Christians to surrender to defeat and despair. Unfortunately many have succumbed to his lying rhetoric, giving in to tepidity, immorality and eventually leaving God and His Church. For many of us it appears that we are fighting a loosing battle.
However, faced with similar philosophies and ideologies, overwhelmed with temptations and confronted with persecutions, St. Paul the Apostle courageously fought the good fight of faith through praying devoutly, living a virtuous life, and preaching and teaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Today as we are surrounded with the persuasive influences of evil, the spirit and teachings of St. Paul are needed more than ever.
Like many of us St. Paul the Apostle had a conversion experience. As a Pharisee, known as Saul, his immense zeal for defending the Jewish law impelled him to hate Christians. He viewed Christian teaching as a violation of the law and perceived their teaching as a threat to Judaism. His harsh sentiments resulted in the hunting and apprehending of many Christians. He supported and witnessed the stoning and death of St. Stephen and heard him say, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” (Acts 7:59). Shortly after while on a journey to Damascus to capture more Christians, Saul was struck down by a heavenly light. He then heard a voice saying, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” And he said, “Who are you Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting; but rise go into the city and, you will be told what you are to do” (Acts 9: 1 – 7).
After a profound experience with Jesus, Paul knew for himself the Divinity of Christ. Following his initial transformation he was commissioned by our Lord to preach the Gospel. This once well educated, enthused and devoted Pharisee would now use his former credentials to win souls for Christ. His love for Jesus and desire to imitate Christ crucified propelled him to preach and teach zealously and tenaciously through insurmountable circumstances.
Inspired by the Holy Spirit he wrote letters to the Christians in the cities he ministered in. These letters would later become part of the New Testament. For centuries God has used these writings to sanctify, edify and pacify. In this time when wickedness seems to prevail, the writings of St. Paul are to needed to strengthen our relationship with Christ and enlighten us in our evangelical endeavors.
On June 28, 2008 the year of St. Paul officially commenced. The Holy Father asked that there be liturgical, cultural and ecumenical events with Pauline spirituality to be held throughout the year. He also requested meetings for the study of St. Paul’s teachings. Pope Benedict called for publications that promote the saint’s teachings. The pontiff encouraged Church organizations, institutions, parishes, shrines and basilicas named in honor of the saint to sponsor events. Benedict XVI said that the year must have an “ecumenical dimension” (Catholic News Agency).
This is a special year of grace promulgated by the Vicar of Christ. It is a time to become more familiar with the writings of St. Paul. These New Testament books nourish the soul. They encourage us to persevere through trials and teach us to live as Christ. Take advantage of this exceptional opportunity to grow in holiness. As St. Paul says, “Make the most out of every time because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5: 16)
Br. Leonard Mary