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Father Muench Says...

Spending time with St. Paul

September 23, 2020

By Father William Muench
NCC columnist

This week, I have spent quite a bit of time with St. Paul. At each of the daily Masses this week, the New Testament Scripture reading was from St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians. This letter is simply filled with important and meaningful material about the early Church and ideas that are still very valuable for today’s Church.

St. Paul lived in Corinth for a time. As he continued his missionary journey,however, in an effort to stay close to the people of Corinth, he wrote this powerful letter. All of the letters of St. Paul continue to be valuable messages for today’s Church and for Christians of all times.

Now, much of what we say here will be familiar to you. However, let us review all this, especially the sections that are readings at Mass. In one of the readings, St. Paul introduced his people to the imagery of the Church as a body, as the body of Christ. Paul sees our Church as being like a human body, united and one Church. Like any human body, our Church is made up of many parts. St. Paul reminds us that some are apostles, some are prophets, some are teachers – all are working together, sharing their gifts and making the Church alive and strong.

Today, we continue to use this image of the Church as the body of Christ. It is an excellent image. This body that is our Church has many parts. Each of us are a part of this body of Christ. Laity and clergy all have important and necessary parts to play in the Church’s mission to unite us all and to bring the message of God’s great love for us all on this planet.

On another day, the reading from the First Corinthians is the very familiar and popular reading on love. Everybody loves this reading. You have heard this reading often at weddings or funerals. I know you remember it. St. Paul boldly begins telling us about the importance of living a life filled with love – a life filled with love like the love God has for us all. St. Paul writes that each follower of Jesus has received many gifts from the Lord, but they mean little when our life has no love. Remember this that St. Paul writes, “If I have faith so as to move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.” Can you imagine? We are nothing without being a loving person.
Then in another reading this week, St. Paul defines love. Again, I know you will recognize this part. Here, St. Paul becomes very dramatic – “Love is patient, Love is kind.” Then he adds all those negatives. “Love is not jealous, not pompous, not rude, does not seek its own interests, it is not quick tempered.” Each segment in this section deserves a long and sincere meditation. I must ask myself: Do I, in all honesty, match up with St. Paul’s definition? What do I have to change?

On another day in the reading from Corinthians, St. Paul declares his confidence that he deserves to be an apostle of the Lord Jesus. He came to believe – in a new faith when the Lord lead him to conversion – that Jesus came to this world to be one of us; Jesus died for our sins; he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures; and Jesus appeared to the apostles. Then, St. Paul reminds us of his conversion when truly Jesus appeared to him, literally knocking him off his horse, changing his life and making him an important missionary for the Church. St. Paul then humbly confesses to us that he is unworthy to be an apostle because he was once a persecutor of Christians. In a sense, he makes it clear to us that you can never tell who will become the greatest missionaries. With God’s grace, we are all called to be great saints like St. Paul.

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