Wednesday, September 16, 2015

How St. Paul Grew into “Christ Lives in Me”

Come to me. Mt. 11:28
  • St. Gregory the Great said, “Jesus became incarnate so that he may be seen by us and he wants to be seen so that he may be imitated.”
  • St. Athanasius said, “God became man so that men might become God.
  • St John the Apostle wrote: “He gave us the power of becoming children of God” (Jn. 1:12). 
  • St. Paul reminds us that we are destined to be conformed to the image of God’s Son (Rom. 8:29). 
  • Paul said, “Imitate me as I imitate Christ” (1 Cor. 4:16). 
  • Blessed James Alberione said all baptized Christians are called to say as St. Paul, “It is no longer I, but Christ who lives in me” (Gal. 2:20).    
Does this happen all at once for us? Did it happen all at once for Paul?

Chapter fourteen of Acts of the Apostles gives one brief version of Paul’s growth in becoming Christ.  In 14:6 we read about an attempt to stone Paul. He flees with Barnabas to Lystra and Derbe to escape death. In Lystra, those who witnessed Paul’s healing of a man lame from birth proclaim Paul and Barnabas gods. Paul and Barnabas tear their garments, insisting that they are human. Tearing garments tells us that something new is happening (Ps. 102). It is a new attitude which St. Paul says is “that of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 2:5).

In 14:19 a crowd does actually stone Paul, leaving him for dead. Undaunted, Paul gets back up and goes into the city to continue preaching.  It was then that the elders of the synagogue in Antioch sent this message to Paul and Barnabas: “We want you to talk to the people, if you have a word of encouragement for them.” Paul and Barnabas went back to Antioch to strengthen and encourage the disciples. Now that he had gained compassion through suffering and had embraced the Paschal Mystery of Christ, Paul is well on his way to saying, “It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives.” Gospel for Paul is not a book, but the person of Jesus Christ. 

As this chapter concludes, Paul and Barnabas are preaching the Gospel and winning a large number of disciples (14:20). They return to the place they first fled for fear of being stoned. This time Paul is a witness to the Pascal Mystery, becoming Christ: “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” he proclaims. The final verse tells us that Paul “gathered the church together and reported all that God had done through them and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles.”
Paulines are called to imitate Paul as he imitates Christ.

We are called to imitate Paul (see 1 Cor. 4:16). In “communion” with Jesus Way, Truth, and Life, our salvation already has its beginning in us through baptismour participation in the life, death, and resurrection of the Son of God. Paul teaches us that it is the person of Christ who lives and works in the Christian, not only as an inner power but also as a personal being. Paul first lived in a sphere he refers to as sin, flesh, world, death, admitting he is always on the road to conversion: “I do not consider that I have made it my own, I strain forward to what lies ahead, pressing on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14). 

After his conversion Paul lived in a sphere he calls “in Christ.” With this he sums up the “new life” that we are called to live after being baptized, after beginning to live in Christ.  We become those who live no longer for themselves; we live for our Lord and Savior who lived for others.

In his charismatic history of the Pauline Family, Abundantes divitia gratiae suae, Blessed James Alberione tells us that the “secret of success is to model ourselves on God by living in the Church and for the Church; of being wild olives grafted onto the olive tree, the Eucharistic Lord; of reflecting and nourishing ourselves with every word of the Gospel, in accord with the spirit of St Paul”(nn. 94-95). We are called to” live in conformity with this new life,” to walk in the Spirit,” “to let oneself be led by the Spirit” (2 Cor. 3:6) so that we may be able to say with Paul, “It is no longer I who live, Christ lives in me” (Gal. 2:20). 



Photo: Icon of Jesus; Orthodox Chapel; Sr. Margaret Kerry, FSP. All Rights Reserved.
Photo: Paul with Blessed and Venerable Paulines. Society of St. Paul, Italy. All Rights Reserved.
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Sr. Margaret Kerry, FSP, celebrates 40 years of life and mission as a Daughter of St. Paul. With a Masters from Boston College School of Theology and Ministry, she gives presentations on the vocation and mission of the laity, media literacy, and evangelization. She directed the Association of Pauline Cooperators for 15 years and was creative editor of The Pauline Cooperator magazine. An author (St. Anthony of Padua: Fire & Light; Strength in Darkness: John of the Cross), Sr. Margaret is working on a young adult book. You can reach her at mkerry@paulinemedia.com.

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