Pope Benedict XVI has asked Catholics to celebrate the 2000th anniversary of the birth of St Paul for 12 months from June 29, the Feast of Ss Peter and Paul.
Wel-com is honouring this request with monthly reflections by scripture scholar, Brother Kieran Fenn and there will be other initiatives as the year progresses to help our understanding of the life and work of Christianity’s first and one of its greatest missionaries.
Paul’s letters to the early Christian communities were personal with a message relevant to the stage of development of the particular community to which he was writing.
I wonder what Paul would write to us, the church of the Archdiocese of Wellington today, now that we have just marked 160 years since the archdiocese began? I see his letter reading something like this.
From Paul, appointed by God to be an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the Church of God at Wellington. Peace and blessing to you all. You have built on the foundation of those who planted the faith in your land. I applaud the way you are continuing their work today by seeding the next generation in your commitment to World Youth Day. There is a wonderful collaborative effort made by people of all ages to help your young people to receive the power of the Holy Spirit and be witnesses to Jesus and his love. Remember that God’s love has been poured into the hearts of all, old and young alike. Welcome your pilgrims home, treat them as the gifts they are to the church, listen to them and speak words of love, acceptance and encouragement.
As Paul looks at our diocese
You are doing so well in your development of lay leadership in the archdiocese. I commend and thank you for the way you have called forth leadership in lay people and have developed your pastoral areas. These will help your church to grow strong. Keep encouraging all people to use their baptismal gifts.
At the same time, because Paul never hesitated to issue a challenge, he would remind us that we have a responsibility to think about what we have to offer the church.
Pray always, in your homes and in your communities—reflect on the word of God and let it influence your lives. When you take time each day to pray and reflect, you will be sisters and brothers who, together, build communities of holiness, healing, helping and hospitality.
Undoubtedly there would be this strong reminder:
Because priesthood is a gift to the church and because it is one of the ways some of us are called to live out our baptism, reflect on ordained priesthood. Parents, talk about priesthood with your sons and ask them to think about embracing the priesthood of Jesus Christ as a life choice. Teach your daughters and sons to reflect and pray, knowing that unless we all pray and unless we try to become one with Jesus in prayer, our lives will be quite meaningless. Jesus is to be at the centre of all you think, say and do.
Because of Paul’s deep respect for diversity, a strong and rich challenge would come as Paul glanced at our Sunday congregations and saw people from many different countries.
He would remind us of the treasure that all people are and that this is God’s church, not ours. As he saw M%u0101ori, European, Polynesian, Asian, his words might be something like:
Treasure the gifts you have among you, the spirit of Jesus has been poured into your hearts. Live in peace with one another; welcome the immigrant and the stranger among you. Help them to feel at home. Be people of hope together and offer others in your towns and cities the word of life.
Paul could not write to us without mentioning the Eucharist, being very aware that all Christian communities need the food of Jesus himself to strengthen and sustain us. Maybe he would say:
Come often to the table of the Lord, eat his body, drink his blood and then be one with each other. Be careful not to just say lots of words when you come to pray—reflect, be silent, know that you are one in Jesus and live lives of love. Always put other people first and be careful to show by your words and deeds that life is never just about you, it is always about Jesus and others—put their needs before your own.
His letter to us would have an urgent reminder that our baptism is a gift and that through baptism we share the very life of God. This fact calls us to love and accept one another, forgive those who hurt and wrong us, care for others—especially the poor, weak and vulnerable in our society. There would be an exhortation to pray and to be grateful. It would not surprise me if he concluded as he did for the people of Corinth:
Try to grow perfect; encourage one another; have a common mind and live in peace and the God of love and peace will be with you.
(2 Cor 13:11).