Sunday, June 28, 2009

Through Various Paths…

This June 29, 2009, with the celebration of the solemnity of the Apostles Peter and Paul, ends the named PAULINE YEAR, called for by Pope Benedict XVI. Its aim was to deepen our knowledge of the life and works of the man, the convert, the Christian, the theologian and the writer, the missionary Saul/Paul of Tarsus.

Christians owe an immense gratitude to the life and works of these two pillars of Christianity who illumined with their being and example the first dawn of the Church; and who marked, with their style and vision, the diverse but always Christian work of evangelization. Those were the first paths where the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ would follow, starting in Jerusalem and making it to all the ends of the earth.

PAUL, in his insistence to tell the world about the Good News of the Gospel which marked his own life as a saving happening, opens the first doors to the work of evangelization in the known world, and for that is more than worthy to receive the title of Apostle to the Gentiles. In contrast with Peter, Paul brings out the Christian experience from its regular Jewish vetero-testamentary mold, and dedicates himself to the adventure of making known the Good News, which for his own life, was the happening of the coming of the Christ.

If something is clear and evident in the life, preaching, writings and journeys of Paul, it is his deep experience of the absolute gratuitousness of faith. According to Paul, it is Christ who takes the initiative of making the encounter and the new Christian religious experience completely “free.” That is why all reflection about faith, in the preaching and writings of Paul, is of personal nature, experiential, free and for the salvation/happiness of all men. This is in contrast to what later (and up to this day) were and are certain types of theology, excessively rational and ethereal.

In our day, and especially in our social and cultural context, it is very meaningful what could be called the “Pauline multi-culturalism”; in other words, the capacity which Paul had to know well, to live, and to reconcile with the prevailing and preponderant cultures of his day: the Semitic or Jewish, the veterotestamentary, the Hellenistic and the roman cultures. This capacity is evident and best shown in his preaching and in his writings, but most of all in his apostolic and missionary fervor.

Paul understood well that the point of the “catholicity” or “universality” of the Church indeed includes the real possibility that all men and women, recognizing each other as brothers and sisters --children of the same Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ—will construct the world as a single table around the only Bread of Life, who is Christ.

This catholicity/universality of the Church, because of its nature, doesn’t know of discriminations, of differences, of stratifications, of frontiers, of barriers, of color, of lifestyles, or of social levels or conditions etc. Today, this catholicity is of outmost importance for the Catholic Church itself, in relation to other Christian churches and in relation to the culture of the United States itself, where so many men and women –for the betterment of the Nation— come seeking better living conditions while originating in the four corners of the earth.

Therefore, this note on catholicity/universality, essential for the Christian life when lived according to Peter’s or Paul’s ideals contains, in itself, the seed and the fruits of an authentic ecumenism which fulfills the wish of Christ himself: That all be as one.”

PETER, on the other hand, head of the Ecclesial Community, starting during those days of fishing and walking the roads of Galilee with Jesus and the other eleven, was ahead in announcing the life transforming act of the first Christians through confessing the crucified as living and resurrected. He is the head of the first Christian communities, as we can see in the neotestamentary testimonies; and he teaches us –among other things—that the responsibility and authority of the heads of the Christian communities are directly related with their capacity of: recognizing their own sin, sincerely repenting, authentic conversion, true love, and the power gotten through service and complete surrender to Christ and his Gospel, up to giving their own lives for their communities.

The Eucharistic Preface in the Solemnity in which we give tribute to the memory and sanctity of Peter and Paul, in fact, sings well to the unity in the diversity which should compose the Church of Jesus Christ:

“Peter, the first in confessing the faith,
Paul, the distinguished teacher who interpret it,
Peter, founder of the primitive Church with the rest of Israel,
Paul, who extended it to all peoples.
Through different paths
both put together the only Church of Christ
and to both, who were crowned by martyrdom
your people celebrate today with the same veneration.”

Today we can say that the work and lives of PETER AND PAUL summarize well the promise, the yearning for renovation and the recovery of the authentic being, vision and mission of the Church of Jesus Christ as expressed in the Ecumenical Council Vatican II: “That the Church be evangelical inside and prophetic to the outside, that is to the world.”

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