31st Week in Ordinary Time
I myself am convinced about you, my brothers and sisters, that you yourselves are full of goodness. (Romans 15:14)
A strange movement that began in the late 1990s has gained popularity in recent years. The premise is simple: strangers assemble in theaters, bars, and church halls to perform dramatic readings of old diary entries, love letters, and poems. The excerpts range from hilarious to moving to painfully awkward, but one element that most have in common is how direct they are—especially the ones written by children and teenagers!
Look at how direct St. Paul was with the believers in Rome! We may be accustomed to using the term “brothers and sisters” in a church setting, but think about how this would have come across to the original recipients. Paul, a faithful Jew, is calling Gentiles his family?! He is warm and kind to these Romans, almost scandalously so. What’s more, in blunt language he praises them for what they are getting right and corrects them for their mistakes. And these are people he has not even met!
Paul enjoyed being part of an international, multicultural, growing Church. He saw people from so many different backgrounds come to faith through the power of the Holy Spirit, and that’s what gave him the confidence to speak so boldly. He was convinced that this was God’s work, and so God would sustain it.
The Holy Spirit wants to convince us that God is at work today just as powerfully as he was in Paul’s day. He wants to urge us to try to advance the mission of the Church. He wants to tell us the same thing Pope John Paul II said over and over again: “Do not be afraid!”
We may not feel as talented as the apostle Paul, but it’s not too hard for us to speak an encouraging word to a friend. It’s not hard to offer to pray for a neighbor or relative facing a medical crisis. It’s not impossible to forgive a co-worker who has hurt us.
We are a Church on a mission. As Pope Francis has said, sometimes that means going beyond our parish boundaries so that we can draw more people in. May we all commit to building the Church, confident that God is with us, sustaining us at every step.
“Lord, fill me with love for your Church and confidence in your work in it.”~WAU