Grace to you!
One of the most incredible testimonies about the life and ministry of Saint Paul could be found in his Letter to the Romans, chapter nine.
Saint Paul writes: "Brothers and sisters: I speak the truth in Christ, I do not lie; my conscience joins with the Holy Spirit in bearing me witness that I have great sorrow and constant anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my own people, my kindred according to the flesh” (Rom 9:1-3)
It's like saying let me lose eternal life insofar as my country people will be saved. Shocking. We aren’t talking about simply physical death or martyrdom. We believe in the saving grace of martyrdom. He is referring to eternal loss. Unbelievable!
However, we understand from the Fathers of the Church that this must not be read to mean Paul wants to go to hell so his fellow Jews will be saved. However, he is revealing his unconditional love for his people and for those who haven’t accepted Jesus of Nazareth as the Christ and Lord. This is unique love and zeal. It is heroic love for others.
Saint Paul's zeal for the salvation of others was incredible. He was not to sleep in or be having good time at the bar while the demand to share the Good News was not heeded. Perhaps this is his personality. More, he is a true passionate pastor.
Before his conversion to Christ, Saul (Paul) was an activist against the followers of The Way (followers of Jesus). He seems to have a personality that when he is in, he is all in; and when he is out, he is all out. He is a straight shooter and very single-minded.
Reading his words in Romans 9:1-3, one could have an insight into his unique love for the salvation of others. One sees also how the love of God has so transformed him that his faith and zeal make him reach out to others, including those who are opposed to his message.
Reminding the Roman believers of the grace they have received, he equally lets us know we should have passionate love for the salvation of others who haven’t come to faith in Christ.
Zeal for souls is the motivation for preaching the Good News. It is what inspires us to fast and make sacrifices for others. The saints share the same love. The measure of our love for God matures unto sacrifices and prayers for others so that they would witness the saving grace we’ve received.
The feeling of joy when somebody else hasn’t accepted God’s saving grace is a sign we’re yet to love as Jesus loves. We hear this powerful word from Scripture: “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son...” (Jn 3:16). Sure, there are many ways to look at the text. Yet, we learn Jesus loved his own to the end (Jn 13:1) and cares for the least of his children.
We, as his hands and feet today, are encouraged to do the same. We learn from St. Paul how to be willing to suffer anything so the Good News would be shared with as many people as possible.
If you believe what you’ve received in Christ is the saving grace, I wonder why you wouldn’t be passionate in living and sharing it. I wonder how we could rest on the sofas of comfort while many who are looking for inner peace and could use our witness are ignored.
I pray for Paul’s kind of zeal for ministers of the Word. Pray for me too to have the same zeal.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Friday Week 30 A: Rom 9:1-5; Lk 14:1-6]
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.