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THE MASTER IN ST. PAUL

Acts of the International Seminar
on "Jesus, the Master"
(Ariccia, October 14-24, 1996)

by Giovanni Helewa ocd

 

Summary

I. St. Paul teacher and formator

1. Some general premises

2. The pauline ministry of the "paraklesis" (1 Thess 2:11-12)

a) A specific ecclesial charism (Rom 12:6-8)

b) The manner: to edify by exhorting and comforting (1 Cor 14:3)

c) The content: be what you are; dignity and coherence

3. A formation founded on values (Rom 12:2; Phil 1:9-11)

II. Paul Apostle at the school of Christ crucified

1. From Christ Lord to Jesus of Nazareth

2. By the Cross with mind and heart

3. At the school of the Crucified

a) The initiative and the demonstration of the great love

b) The primacy of grace and of faith

c) A wisdom and a power worthy of God

"I made myself all for everyone"

"Jesus Christ, and him crucified"

 

I. ST. PAUL TEACHER AND FORMATOR

"...As you know, we have treated each of you as a father treats his children, exhorting and encouraging you and insisting that you conduct yourselves, as worthy of the God who calls you into his kingdom and glory" (1 Thess 2:11-12).

1. Some general premises

— From the gospel preached to the gospel explained: a catechesis where the richness of the grace of Christ is manifested to the believers, teaching them "how you should conduct yourselves to please God" (1 Thess 4:1).

— "To remedy the deficiencies of your faith" (1 Thess 3:10). "Continue in the service of all of you for your progress and joy in the faith" (Phil 1:25). Together, faith believed (Rom 10:9) and faith lived (Gal 5:6). Indispensable nourishment, either by "milk" or "solid food" (cf. 1 Cor 3:1-2).

— "In the sight of God we are speaking in Christ, and all for the building you up, beloved" (2 Cor 12:19; cf. 4:15). The oikodomé: growth and consolidation in Christ (cf. Col 2:6-7; Eph 4:15-16), or promotion of the baptismal authenticity in individuals and in communities.

— A work of formation that helps the believers to advance in the journey of a perfection ever to be pursued (Phil 3:12,15-16; 1 Thess 4:1,9-10). The method: "Working together, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain" (2 Cor 6:1). The duration and the scope: "until Christ be formed in you" (Gal 4:19; cf. 2 Cor 3:18).

— After the proclamation of the gospel among the pagans, no diakonía exists for St. Paul that is more important than this: to seek that the gospel is confirmed and prospers in the life of those who have believed in it. It is on this level that, as for the rest, the Letters are located.

Personal involvement: maternal tenderness (1 Thess 2:7-8; Gal 4:19) and paternal concern (1 Thess 2:11; 1 Cor 4:14-15; cf. 2 Cor 12:14-15); solidarity felt (Phil 2:1-2; 4:1; 1 Thess 2:19-20; 3:1,5,7-10; 2 Cor 11:28-29); word and example (1 Cor 11:1; Phil 3:17; 4:9; 2 Thess 3:7; cf. 1 Cor 9,1ff); above all the principle: "We believe, therefore we speak" (2 Cor 4:13-15; cf. 1:3ff).

— Spirit of collaboration and of service: "Not that we lord it over your faith; rather, we work together for your joy, for you stand firm in the faith (2 Cor 1:24; cf. 1 Thess 2:6). "... ourselves as your slaves for the sake of Jesus" (2 Cor 4:5). (return to summary)

2. The pauline ministry of the "paraklesis" (1 Thess 2:11-12)

a) A specific ecclesial charism (Rom 12:6-8)

— The criterion is always that of usefulness (1 Cor 12:7), which coincides with the edification (1 Cor 14:5,6,12,17,26; cf. 8:2; 10:23,33).

— Those who are already "edified by God" (1 Cor 3:9) are further built. It refers then to "collaborating with God" (1 Cor 3:9; 2 Cor 6:1), according to a grace of God himself (cf. 1 Cor 3:10; 15:10; Rom 12:3-6; 1 Pt 4:10-11; etc.) in the building of a work that is entirely of God (1 Cor 3:16-17; 4:1-2) for the good of the believers (2 Cor 1:24; 4:5; 10:8; 13:10; Phil 1:25).

— The ministry-charism of prophecy: the gift of speaking as believer (2 Cor 4:13) to the believers (1 Cor 14:22) for their "building up, encouragement and solace" (1 Cor 14:3-4,22; cf. Acts 15:32). And this it seems that prophecy was held the first of the charisms, after that of the apostolate (1 Cor 12:28; 14:1,5,39; Eph 2:20; 3:5; 4:11) (return to summary)

b) The manner: to edify by exhorting and comforting (1 Cor 14:3)

— 1 Thess 2:11: "As you know, we treated each one of you as a father treats his children, exhorting and encouraging you..."

Parakalein = to exhort. Depending on the case: to invite, to solicit, to urge, to pray; or else: to stimulate, to comfort, to reanimate, to encourage, to console; or else: to warn, to admonish, to straighten, to correct, to take it up again...

— The language is that of pressing invitation and the intent is practical: exhortation to a manner of living, to a behavior, to a disposition each has to promote within himself, to achieve interior certainties, etc.

— It is a catechesis addressed to the intelligence and the will, geared to enlighten the mind and move the heart. It is not, therefore, the explanatory word of an instructor that is limited to explain concepts and articulate doctrines; it is rather the discourse of a father who tries to convince and bring closer by telling the truth of the gospel with the warmth and participation of one who invites and solicits and admonishes and encourages children dear to him.

— It is supposed that such paraklesis wants also to instruct (cf. 1 Tim 4:13; 6:2-3; 2 Tim 4:2; Ti 1:9); but it is the instruction of a teacher who wants to "edify" the believers by "exhorting" and "comforting" (cf. 1 Cor 14:3).

To exhort is not to command or to prescribe (cf. Phil 8-10), even if the apostolic paraklesis does not lack authority (2 Cor 5:20; 1 Thess 2:6; 4:1-2; 2 Cor 13:8,10) and its content is in fact normative: "This is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus" (1 Thess 5:18; cf. 4:3; Rom 12:2). Nonetheless, what God wants of us (norm) objectively coincides with what God wants for us (grace project); and such "norm-grace of God in Christ Jesus", Paul feels he has to propose to the consciences with persuasive and involving language of the exhortation, rather than with the distant language of command... (return to summary)

c) The content: be what you are; dignity and coherence

— 1 Thess 2:12: "[We exhorted each one of you]... exhorting and encouraging you and insisting that you conduct yourselves as worthy of the God who calls you into his kingdom and glory."

Peripatein: to walk, to proceed, to go ahead, thrust forward to a goal of revealed and promised and hoped and desired perfection (cf. 2 Cor 5:6-7; Phil 3:12-16). It is to "live in newness of life" (Rom 6:4), a "walk in Christ Jesus" (Col 2:6), a "live by the Spirit letting ourselves be guided by the Spirit" (Gal 25:16,18,25).

— A duty-bound commitment as in the land of exile (2 Cor 5:6-7) and at the same time with a religious response: to the divine klesis, which leads towards the heavenly motherland (cf. Phil 3:20; 2 Ti 2:14), to respond with the commitment of a daily and coherent peripatein.

— Note the adverb aksíos = in a worthy manner (cf. 1 Thess 2:12; Phil 1:27; Col 1:10; Eph 4:1). A reminder to the sense of identity-dignity in Christ and to the duty-bound coherence that is proper to believers made aware of the greatness and richness of their call in Christ, of their relationship of grace toward the Lord, of the glorious hope given them (cf. Phil 3:20; Eph 1:18; Col 1:23,27). A characteristic methodology: the believers are invited to open themselves up to criteria of nobility and of greatness, while always better responding to God who "calls you in his kingdom and glory" (1 Thess 2:12).

— A doctrinally engaging ministry: much catechesis is needed in order to let believers understand that they are already in Christ Jesus, making them appreciate what God, in Christ, wills for them and from them. And it is a ministry willed to be persuasive: let believers be enlightened and won over by so much truth (cf. 1 Cor 2:9ff; Col 1:9; Eph 1:18; Phil 3:8,12) and let them honor their dignity in their day-to-day life.

— Some examples: 1 Thess 4:3-8; 1 Cor 3:21-23; 6:19-20; Gal 5:1; 5:16-25; Rom 6:13; 12:1-2; 14:7-9; Col 3:1-4; Eph 4:30; 5:1-2; 5:8-9... Underlying prospect: Christ imprinted and Christ expressed. In other words: the Christ with which we were "clothed" in baptism (Gal 3:27) effectively becomes the new "clothing" of a new life (Rom 13:14; Col 3:8-10; 3:12ff; Eph 4:20-24). (return to summary)

3. A formation founded on values (Rom 12:2; Phil 1:9-11)

— Exhorting the believers to live in a manner worthy of their baptismal calling, Paul formator takes care of promoting in consciences this primary motivation: to please God (1 Thess 4:1; 2 Cor 5:9; Rom 12:1-2; Col 1:10; Eph 5:10) by always living and doing everything "for the glory of God" (1 Cor 10:31; 6:20; Rom 15:6; cf. 1 Pt 4:11). It is the supreme religious value that the Apostle himself says must be always pursued (1 Thess 2:3-5; Gal 1:10; 2 Cor 10:17-18; Phil 1:20-21...). It is to adhere with one’s intention to the intention of God himself, who made all things in Christ and does everything in the grace of the gospel "in praise of his glory" (Phil 2:11; Rom 11:36; 15:16; Eph 1:6,12,14; 2:7; 4:21...). And granted that Jesus Christ is the glory-image-grace of God (2 Cor 4:4,6; Col 1:15; 3:10; cf. Heb 1:3), to want to please God means to be committed to express Christ and to grow in Christ (cf. 2 Cor 3:18), bringing each one to the fulfillment of his sanctification (2 Cor 7:1).

— "I urge you, therefore, brothers... to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship" (Rom 12:1; cf. 1:9; 15:16; Phil 3:3). Everyone is urged to give to God what is God’s (cf. Rom 11:36), with each one offering his own person in his daily life to Him who is pleased to sanctify that person for Himself (cf. 1 Cor 3:16-17; 6:19-20; 7:23). At the moment one is of the Lord, one tries to live for the Lord, like servants who are attentive to the will and the glory of their Lord (Rom 14:7-9; 1 Cor 3:23).

— Forming believers at the school of evangelical values, Paul insists on exalting charity in the new dynamism of Christian existence. "Knowledge inflates with pride, but love builds up" (1 Cor 8:2). "Your every act should be done with love" (1 Cor 16:14). The gift of charity "is still more excellent way" (1 Cor 12:31). "Love never fails... the greatest of these is love" (1 Cor 13:8,13). "And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection" (Col 3:14). The unchangeable primacy of love (1 Cor 13:1-3). In fact, the believers shall express Christ and shall be pleasing to God as his children inasmuch as "they shall live in love" (Eph 5:1-2).

— The major road of Christian authenticity, that of love, is available for all to undertake, and one journeys in the ordinary daily life (1 Cor 13:4-7). Its normal and congenital space is that of the community of brothers (cf. 1 Thess 4:9-10; 5:12-14; Gal 5:13-15; 6:1-2; Rom 12:9-16; 14:19; 15:1-7; Phil 2:1-4; Col 3:12-17; Eph 4:1-6; 4:31-32; 5:1-2...) Under the light of love this formative proposal comes: to attune one’s self with the mind of God and to appreciate the greatness of small things; by themselves, great undertakings are not required but one is pleasing to God according to the measure of his love lived and expressed! (return to summary)

Continued: Paul Apostle at the school of Christ crucified - 1 -

 

           Jesus Master yesterday, today and for ever

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