Blog Template Theology of the Body: Great Evangelists: St. Paul the Apostle, Missionary to the Gentiles

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Great Evangelists: St. Paul the Apostle, Missionary to the Gentiles

From his conversion in AD 35 to his martyrdom in Rome in AD 67, Paul's vision of the risen Lord impelled him to proclaim and explicate the Gospel between Jerusalem, Tarsus, Arabia, Ephesus, Antioch, Galatia, Macedonia, Athens, and Rome. He had been the hunter of those who called Jesus of Nazareth their Lord and God; he became Christ's most prolific apostolic witness.

Critics have long suggested that Paul's life-chaning vision of Christ Himself can be explained in natural terms as the product of an excitable, nervous temperament, external agitations, and a strong imagination. These suggestions are countered by Paul's own self-description: he is certain of having seen Christ as did the other Apostles (1 Corinthians 9:1); he declares that Christ appeared to him (1 Corinthians 15:8) as He appeared to Peter, to James, to the Twelve, after His Resurrection; He knows that his conversion is not the fruit of his reasoning or thoughts, but an unforeseen, sudden, startling change, due to all-powerful grace (Galatians 1:12-15; 1 Corinthians 15:10). Furthermore, he is wrongly credited with doubts, perplexities, fears, remorse, before his conversion. He was halted by Christ when his fury was at its height (Acts 9:1-2); it was "through zeal" that he persecuted the Church (Philippians 3:6), and he obtained mercy because he had acted "ignorantly in unbelief" (1 Timothy 1:13). All explanations, psychological or otherwise, are worthless in face of these definite assertions, for all suppose that it was Paul's faith in Christ which engendered the vision, whereas according to the concordant testimony of the Acts and the Epistles it was the actual vision of Christ which engendered his faith.

It is St. Paul who shows us the inseperable synthesis between sound theology and the proclamation of the Gospel. Paul builds an entire theological system from the person and work of the Redeemer; everything in St. Paul converges towards Jesus Christ. It is St. Paul who shows us human nature wholly under the dominion of sin, whom God refuses to abandon, and for whom we see Jesus- the pre-existant Christ, fully man- enacting the objective redemption of the world by His own body.

Great convert and Apostle of the Gentiles, you became Christlike and knew only Christ Crucified. Though extremely learned, you relied completely on the Wisdom received from the Spirit and taught from the abundance of your heart. Instruct modern evangelists - those who preach Christ to others. Let them realize that their actions speak louder than any words they may use. Teach them to use their talents in conveying their God-given message but to rely above all on the promptings of the Spirit. After persecuting the Church you became by God's grace its most zealous Apostle. To carry the knowledge of Jesus, our divine Savior, to the uttermost parts of the earth you joyfully endured prison, scourgings, stonings, and shipwreck, as well as all manner of persecutions culminating in the shedding of the last drop of your blood for our Lord Jesus Christ. Obtain for us the grace to labor strenuously to being the faith to others and to accept any trials and tribulations that may come our way. Help us to be inspired by your Epistles and to partake of your indomitable love for Jesus, so that after we have finished our course we may join you in praising him in heaven for all eternity. Amen.