June 27, 2008
A Shepherd’s Message
By Daniel Cardinal DiNardo
On June 28, the Holy Father will inaugurate a “Year of St. Paul” to commemorate the 2000 anniversary of his birth. The great persecutor of the early Church was to become one of her greatest teachers and apostles. The Risen Christ encountered Saul on the road to Damascus, an event recorded both in the Acts of the Apostles and by the great apostle himself. Saul was “blind” to the Lord and His Church, but the blazing light of the Crucified and Risen One truly blinded Saul with its brilliance. His whole life, like his name, was changed. Saul became Paul. The blind one began to see. The direct encounter with Jesus and the subsequent baptism led Paul to become the bold teacher and witness we know about from his many Letters. Paul instantaneously “saw” that he was called to be an apostle, and not by any human appointment. He would subsequently have to fight for his calling all his days. He had to face other apostles and defend himself. He was fearless, even with St. Peter, yet he also respected the Prince of the Apostles and, as he says in his Letter to the Galatians, went to see Ciphers (Peter) to lay out the Gospel he preached in order to receive that mark of approval which Peter exercised in the early Church.
St. Paul is a profound and sometimes difficult writer; from the beginning of the Church his writings were received as the Word of God. His insights have been extraordinarily influential in the history of the Catholic Church. His own experience of grace set the tone for his awesome recognition of the grace of God the Father in Jesus Christ. His characteristic teaching of our justification by faith that bears fruit in love is even now a central consideration in our understanding of the supernatural gift of faith. His proclamation of God’s love that shines most through the Crucified Lord Jesus is a spirituality that no Catholic Christian can evade or ignore. His beautiful analysis of the work of the Holy Spirit in his Letter to the Romans, Chapter 8, is unsurpassed. He also has given us an essential understanding of the Church as the Body of Christ, as the Temple of God where both Head (Christ) and members (u) form such a unity that it can be said that the Church is Christ’s presence alive in the world. He was bold in correcting errors in both teaching and in moral life. Uncompromising with himself, he became all things to all men, as he once wrote. His lack of self-pity amidst so many persecutions and misunderstandings is a tribute to the sheer attachment to Jesus that was his whole life. His example is particularly important today when so many Christians compromise the Gospel because it is difficult or seems less relevant than the opinions of the elite and the media.
The Year of St. Paul occurs also this year as an inspiration for the forthcoming Synod of Bishops to be held in October in Rome. I have been honored by being elected as one of the four American delegates to the Synod. The theme this year is: “The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church.” The Synod will particularly give attention to the Scriptures and their essential role in the catechesis formation and spirituality of the Church. I believe that St. Paul will be our great heavenly Patron during the discussion, deliberation and recommendations that the Bishops of the Synod will provide for the Holy Father in his universal shepherding ministry in the Church as the Successor of St. Peter.
We will be celebrating the Year of St. Paul and the life-giving presence of the Scriptures, particularly in catechesis, in this local Church of Galveston–Houston in the coming months. I ask of all our priests, deacons, religious and faithful to renew or revivify your love of God’s Word. If the Letters of St. Paul seem too difficult, remember that his preaching was always and everywhere a proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Pick up one of the four Gospels and begin a slow and day by day reading of one of these masterpieces. Pray about what you read. Spend a year with St. Matthew, or St. Mark, Saint Luke or Saint John and become enthused again for the power of the Risen Jesus who shines through every page. Happy Reading!