Grace to you!
We come to the close of the reflections centered on Saint Paul’s Letter to the Romans. Our Daily Reflections have dwelled on it for the past three weeks.
Romans chapter sixteen has a unique personal touch to it. It reveals the warmth of Saint Paul and another side of his disposition that isn’t very evident in his straight-shooting style. Saint Paul sends warm greetings through his secretary, Tertius, to the churches that meet in at least three different homes in Rome.
As an aside lesson: We have to understand that in those days, churches met at people's homes. There were no church buildings yet. Private homes were handier, as well as safer, places for worship. Christians suffered from many persecutions as well. So, believers met in homes and the essential parts of the worship format were described in Acts of the Apostles: “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42). Saint Paul will speak of this earliest form of the Eucharist in his First Letter to the Corinthians (11:17-34), as well as remind believers of its moral requirements.
Regarding the lesson I draw for today: Did you notice there are at least twenty-five names that St. Paul mentioned in the closing message of his Letter to the Romans, that is in chapter 16. Among those names include at least eight to nine women. Some of the names are Greek. Some are Latin, so they probably belong to the Roman birth; one (Epaenetusm) at least is Asian, the first Asian convert as the Letter says. About two or so are Hebrew names (Herodion and Mary).
In addition, a study of the background of this story shows that the churches were so diverse that no distinction was made between the so-called slaves and free, white, brown or black races. The church comprised of people from across the races of the ancient world. This tells us the revolutionary character of the Good News. The Church was and is never a tribal religion. The ability to bring people from all races, cultures and languages into one fold, one family of God, is a wonderful testimony of the Good News.
Saint Paul writes, thanking all these leaders. It isn’t likely he knew them all, but at least their names were mentioned for the unique roles they played in the church. Gratitude of this kind is encouraging. It warms the heart.
We learn that the Church has been in the vanguard of diversity. Jesus the Lord set the example, as he related positively with different people from different backgrounds. We take pride in it and the Body of Christ is blessed by it. Demographic and racial diversity is a blessing. We constantly mirror what the early Church was and allow the examples to inspire us today. Charity, Christian love, inspires us to do so.
How diverse is your organization, your church or your work force? How open are we to encourage diversity in the areas of intellectual contributions. Diversity is strength, not weakness. Remember, diversity isn’t only about demographics and race; it is also about ideas.
Praying that God will give us the courage to be open to diversity and see the Church as a family with diverse gifts. Amen.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Saturday Week 31A: Rom 16:3-9, 16, 22-27; Lk 16:9-15]
Fr. Maurice Emelu
Father Maurice provides a daily blog of reflections based on the bible readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration and developing your own thoughts. It may also be helpful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.