Before the opening of the Year of Saint Paul
Fr. IRENEUSZ SKUBIŚ
The statements of St Paul, included in his powerful Letters, have extraordinary meaning. Since the Gospel requires fire, which could set on fire other people. Saint Paul himself was such God’s fire, carrying Christ to people; he was a torch burning for him. The Church will begin the Year of Saint Paul on 28 June 2008. I am personally thankful to the Holy Father Benedict XVI for turning our attention to the Apostle to the Nations. St Paul received all his apostolic knowledge from Christ himself. The other Apostles walked with Jesus, listened to his teaching, observed the activities of the Master, but St Paul did not. As Saul he was struck near Damascus and lost his sight. He asked, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And Christ answered him, ‘I am Jesus, and you are persecuting me’ (cf. Acts 9:5). We followed the conversion of Saul depicted in the Acts. From that moment he began proclaiming Christ. That knowledge about the Saviour was poured straight into his heart and mind. Thanks to Jesus’ intervention Paul became one of the Apostles, the preachers of the Gospel. This is strange and we do not always realize that Jesus acted through Paul in a marvellous way so that he became the Apostle to the Nations. He went to the Gentiles and proclaimed Christ everywhere, with great determination and total dedication to the Lord. Today, when the world has become a global village we look at evangelisation as something that is somehow ordinary and possible to do. But one should see it in the context of two thousand years of the Church’s existence, especially in the context of the activities of the Apostles and early Christians. Their faith was extraordinary, consistent; they faithfully endured to the end and gave witness to Christ. St Paul organized three powerful missionary journeys (see the Acts). He submitted his freedom and all his activities to the feeling of responsibility for the whole Church. He proclaimed the Crucified and Resurrected Christ and his proclamation was the joyful Good News about the Messiah – the Saviour. All the Apostles took part in that proclamation. One section of the apostolic work was the Gospel narrative – the transmission of the Bible, and the other was the dogmatic and moral content, mainly included in the Letters of St Paul who interpreted God’s teaching. The early Church used that teaching to create the framework for theology. Since the story of Jesus itself, depicted in the Gospels, does not systematize the knowledge concerning God. Only on the basis of the Acts and the Letters as well as the Revelation we can see the whole picture and the Church could make deep theological reflections. Therefore, St Paul laid foundation for Christian theology – the systematized knowledge about God, based on the life and teaching of Jesus, referring to the prophetic stories of the Old Testament that are full of God’s wisdom. Thanks to the bonds, which St Paul provided, the theological expression of Christianity became consolidated and integrated. St Paul’s teaching is full of joy and hope. He zealously proclaimed his Lord but also transformed his teaching to concrete life, creating the foundations of Christian morality. Today, the times are not easy for Christianity. There are many activities of various forms of gnosis that would like to soften the Christian thought so that it was not complete and uniform. Therefore, it is important to return to St Paul, the Apostle to the Nations, who shows the desire to follow Christ and encourages us to deepen the Christian doctrine. Beginning the Year of St Paul we have an occasion for deep reflections concerning Christianity and looking at Christ anew. How prudent John Paul II was when, at the threshold of the Third Millennium, he encouraged the Church to look at Christ and adore him. Since he is the image of God who comes to save us, of God who is a personal God. The request to adore Christ is an encouragement to conversion and a deep experience of Christian faith as well as it urges us to continue the mission of all Jesus’ apostles – to proclaim the Good News to all the nations on earth, following his words, ‘Go, therefore, make disciples of all the nations’ (cf. Matthew 28:19). Our times, which provide so many opportunities to proclaim the Gospel, should be a challenge for us. And St Paul should effectively inspire us to that.