Lent with Paul: Session 1

Let us pray…

Glorious St. Paul,
most zealous apostle,
martyr for the love of Christ,
give us a deep faith,
a steadfast hope,
a burning love for our Lord,
so that we can proclaim with you,
“It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.”
Help us to become apostles,
serving the Church with a pure heart,
witnesses to her truth and beauty
amidst the darkness of our days.
With you we praise God our Father:
“To him be the glory, in the Church and in Christ, now and forever.” AMEN

Paul’s Life*
(*dates are educated guesses, approximations taken from The Lost Gospel of Paul and The Word Made Flesh by John C. Dwyer, and N.T. Wright’s Paul, A Biography)

1-10AD: Paul was born, probably in Tarsus to a conservative Jewish family (a strict, committed Jew, but a Jew of the diaspora –meaning outside Jerusalem). He knew and understood Greek culture and philosophy, but was also immersed in Jewish thought and scriptures. He was apprenticed and practiced tent-making. So, he lived when Jesus lived, but he did not “know” him until after the Resurrection.

33AD: Paul “met” the risen Christ on his way to Damascus. Read Galatians 1: 11 – 24 for Paul’s own account of this encounter. To see it today, look up “Straight Street” in Damascus on Google Earth! He stayed in Damascus a short while, and then went into Arabia, the area SE of Damascus – partly desert, partly fertile with some cities. What he did there is unknown, but he may have gone to Mt. Sinai as a calling (like Elijah). He then returned to Damascus

36AD: Paul went to Jerusalem for 15 days where he met Peter (Cephas) and James, the brother of Jesus. Then Paul went back to Tarsus. For the next 10-ish years, we are not sure where Paul was or what exactly he was doing. We might assume he did a lot of praying and reflecting on his theology, and eventually preaching in Antioch. Somewhere in the 40’sAD, Barnabas comes to visit him (maybe to check in on the stir he may have been causing).

46-48AD: 1st Missionary Trip to and from Galatia. Paul writes Galatians.

48-49AD: The “Council of Jerusalem” – read Galatians 2: 1 – 10-Paul and Barnabas present to James, Cephas (Peter) and John, “remuted to be pillars,” the gospel that he preached to the Gentiles – that they were not to be enslaved by the Jewish dietary laws or circumcision. They shook hands and agreed that Paul should “add nothing” to this – thus “faith in Christ Jesus” became definitively open to the Gentile world. However, it did not end nice and neat…Barnabas and Paul return to Antioch-perhaps with Titus-but there were mixed messages being preached. It may have been that the “pillars” felt okay with Paul speaking this way in Antioch, but they still held their Jewish beliefs in Jerusalem (especially Peter).

49-51AD: 2nd Missionary Trip to Greece. Paul writes I Thessalonians and visits Corinth.

52-53AD: Paul in Jerusalem, Antioch; 3rd Missionary Trip to Ephesus. Writes I Corinthians.

53-54AD: Short, painful visit to Corinth.

55-56AD: Imprisonment in Ephesus. Writes Philippians, Philemon.

56-57AD: Released from prison, travel from Ephesus to Corinth, writes 2 Corinthians and Romans.

57AD: Travels from Corinth to Jerusalem. Riots and prison.

From here, he may have gone to Rome, maybe shipwrecked in Malta on the way. There could have been further travels in Spain or to the east. Early tradition holds that both Paul and Peter were martyred in Rome under the Nero persecution of Christians in the early 60s.

A Reading from the Letter of St. Paul to the Romans (10: 8 – 13)
Faith needs to be both deep within our hearts AND spoken out loud by our lips. What did this mean to these early Christians?

To be ‘justified’ means to be in right relationship with God. To trust that our God claims us as his own. This free gift of God’s acceptance is just that – free, un-won, unmerited. In Jesus we find a God who assures us that his justice is filled with love. It is in responding to this love and acceptance – faith – that we find true life and power – a power that can live even beyond our own handicaps and deaths. (John C. Dwyer, The Lost Gospel of Paul, 43+)

Paul’s message is clear: in order to become transformed, all one needed to do was embrace the message of Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit, then would slowly begin the process of transformation. (W&W, Birmingham, 126)

Paul insisted that Jesus died once and for all people. It was a complete act of gratuitous, unmerited, unconditional love. The response to such love can be nothing less than the complete offering of one’s entire life to the God who loves so greatly. Human beings are justified by faith, not by observance of the law or by their own merits. It was a difficult message to accept. Justification through the law was ingrained in the people’s consciousness and history.

This is seen in Vatican II! “Following the desire and command of Christ, the Church makes a serious effort to present the Gospel to the whole world so that people can share in God’s love. Everyone who is baptized is charged with this mission. The Church works and prays diligently with great hope that everyone in the whole world will ultimately join together as the People of God, “ (Vat II in Plain English: The Constitutions, p. 38).

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