Category Archives: Reflections on Paul

Thanos Snap

This afternoon, I finished the fiction book I had been reading over the past few weeks and debated what I was going to pick up next. It had been the end of a series and I didn’t really want to jump right into some other fictional world just yet.

I drifted from bookcase to bookcase, glossing over titles and colored spines. Finally, I landed on a volume on my Catholic bookcase, “Apostle of the Crucified Lord,” by Michael J. Gorman. This is a book from my Pauline literature course at Seminary. We had read a good quantity of the book, but not everything. Perhaps now would be a good time to go back and read the remaining pages?

Apostle of the Crucified Lord by Michael J. Gorman

As with most of my Catholic books, I have underlined and annotated the pages as I have read, so I know that reading through the remaining pages will take me more time than reading a work of fiction. I think that I want to turn this more into a reflection/Bible study as well, so the sections where we are going to examine, E.g. Galatians, I want to read that chapter in the Bible before reading that part of the book.

Just as a disclaimer before I begin: I am not sure if I will share the entirety of my reading/studying experience here, and I will likely *not* complete the study questions at the end of each chapter. However, if I do write more blog posts for this book, I’ll tag them with apostleofthecrucifiedlord, so that you can find them more easily. 🙂

Now, for what caused me to write this blog post in the first place. I was reading about Paul’s conversion, and how he went from being a zealous persecutor of the early Christians to a zealous evangelist for Christianity, especially to the Gentiles. We probably all know the story: Paul was riding to Damascus, had a vision of the Lord, fell off his horse (was there really a horse, though?), and was blinded, etc.

As overly dramatic as that might sound to modern ears, it is clear that Saul/Paul had some intense encounter with the Lord and a swift change of heart. And, thinking about it, his experience does have some similarities to my own conversion. (You can read a little more about my joining the church here.) But, basically, I woke up one morning and without really knowing what the Catholic church was about and not knowing any Catholics, I had the conviction that I was going to be Catholic. It wasn’t really a decision, but more like a recognition of an inner truth. I haven’t looked back or questioned a thing since that day.

Prevenient Grace: The species of actual grace which, as an illumination or inspiration of the Holy Spirit, precedes the free determination of the will. It is held to mark the beginning of all activity leading to justification, which cannot be achieved without it, but its acceptance or rejection depends on man’s free choice.

The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church

By prevenient grace, the Holy Spirit flipped a switch in me that day. As I read I came across this, “A conversion may be defined, more fully, as a radical reorientation of one’s fundamental commitment that is expressed in three things: convictions, or belief; conduct, or behavior; and community affiliation, or belonging.”

It doesn’t always feel that I had this radical reorientation, but my life is definitely very different and my faith has colored every aspect of my thoughts and actions. Instead, it feels comfortable and inevitable, like *of course* this is how things were always supposed to be. However, the reality is more like the drama as Paul tells it. Whether it felt momentous or not, the Holy Spirit did a Thanos Snap on me that day and my life has never been the same. Thanks be to God!

End of Lent Examen

Wadowice Confessional by sacerdotal
Wadowice Confessional, a photo by sacerdotal on Flickr.

How perfect is this?! We are at the end of Lent and about to enter into the Triduum. Holy Week. It’s a great time to do an examination of conscience, review what I have done over the course of Lent, and to make that final trip to the confessional.

How appropriate that we are reading 2 Timothy in class? It reads just like an examination of conscience in 2 Tim 3:

People will be…

Self-centered — Ugh. Check.
Lovers of money — No…. But does “haters of bills” count?
Proud — maybe?
Haughty — I don’t think so….
Abusive — Not that I know of, but I haven’t been around any marshmallow Peeps recently….
Disobedient to their parents — well, my parents haven’t asked anything of me recently….
Ungrateful — Ooooh. This could be painful if they count the things I tend to take for granted….
Irreligious — hmmm….
Callous — Not typically
Implacable — No
Slanderous — I don’t think so.
Licentious — Depends on which definition of Webster’s you are looking at. We’ll put that down as a “maybe”….
Brutal — oh, yes, vicious even! LOL! Okay, that’s probably a “no.”
Hating what is good — Noooo….
Traitors — no….
Reckless — Check. *sigh*
Conceited — But I *am* awesome! Oh…wait….
Lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God — Eeep!

I think if we really pray with this passage, there is much which will convict us. Or me. You guys are probably all fine and stuff.

What time’s Confession??

Be Quiet, Woman!

SHH_by_cookiemonstah by 旺小福
SHH_by_cookiemonstah, a photo by 旺小福 on Flickr.

Ah, and now to deal with the text which caused all the controversy in class! 🙂

“A woman must receive instruction silently and under complete control. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man. She must be quiet,” (1 Timothy 2:11-12).

I will have to come back to this posting after the end of Holy Week and Easter and the semester to properly do justice to this topic, as I believe that it is an important one (and I have a lot to say!!!).

I’d like to note just a few things about this.

— This in no way means that women are inferior to men, nor should it be taken that way to justify the oppression of women.

— I think this speaks more to the innate differences between men and women and how we react to different situations/projects.

— I think the juxtaposition of this passage, after speaking of the duties of men and before speaking about the qualifications of ministers has significant influence over how we are to interpret this.

— What’s so bad about obedience anyway? Jesus was obedient unto the cross.

— How come every time people speak of women being obedient, someone has to counter with Eve and the apple, blame, and sexual assault? And what does it mean that these topics are continually re-presented?

Spiritual Motherhood

This has been on a sticky note in my office for years now, “I, then, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received,” (Ephesians 4:1).

I always pair this in my mind with James 5:16, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The fervent prayer of a righteous person is very powerful.

Since I have been given this vocation to pray for my priest, I find it necessary to be extra-aware of the sins that I commit and to go to Reconciliation often. I mean, believe me, I am concerned about my own salvation, but more importantly, I have been gifted with this person to help support in prayer and I want to support him in the best possible way. No one wants to meagerly provide for her children; she wants to provide them with all the good things in the world! So, if being a holier person, if having a closer relationship with God, means that my prayers could be more powerful, more efficacious, than I will seek towards that.

Not that I think that my prayer is what is efficacious in this. It’s not like prayer is like putting a quarter in the vending machine, and when enough quarters have been inserted you get the snack or the prize. Not at all. It is entirely God’s doing. His free gift. Yet, He allows for our participation. And it is this aspect which I wish to maximize.

So, it is for the sake of my priest that I try to live in a manner worthy of the call which I have received, so that my prayers may be powerful before Jesus on his behalf.

St. Thérèse, pray for us!

Grateful for the Word

bible by greatbiblequestions
bible, a photo by greatbiblequestions on Flickr.

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, as in all wisdom you teach and admonish one another, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God,” (Colossians 3:16).

This reminds me: one of the things which I am doing this Lent is to get back to basics, meaning reading Scripture daily. I think I am very fortunate to have so many different ways to read the Word of God. I can access it on my phone, read it online, read any of my several Bibles, listen to it on CD….

Just think of how things were in the middle ages, before the time of the printing presses, when Bibles were hand copied and very expensive. Then, unless I was extremely fortunate (especially being a girl), I probably would have only had contact with the Word during Mass.

Also, in the spirit of letting the word of Christ dwelling richly within me, I am going to Mass as close to daily as I can manage.

The best part? I don’t even have to wait for Easter to reap the reward! 🙂

Lobster Nachos vs. Cheerios

Lobster Nachos by Mike Saechang
Lobster Nachos, a photo by Mike Saechang on Flickr.

Perhaps this is something which I am getting wrong, but when St. Paul was speaking about knowing how to live in humble circumstances, as well as how to live with abundance, I didn’t think he was solely talking about his contentment with his daily fare regardless of it was lobster nachos or stale Cheerios set before him, (Philippians 4:12).

Rather, I thought he was speaking of a balanced view of life, and the way in which we should strive to live.

Meaning, that if I was in a position where lobster nachos was my de rigeur, I should work to maintain my humility, and recall that my abundance is a gift from God and not something which I earned, or worse, that I am entitled to. I should always keep in mind my brothers and sisters who do not have food in abundance(or other necessity of life) and work to see to their comforts as best I can.

On the other hand, if I am living in humble circumstances, I am not to fall into despair, but to trust in the Lord that He will provide for me. I am to be joyful for the things that I have and offer up my small sufferings for the good of my brothers and sisters in Christ.

In either circumstance, I would know that my worth is not measured by the things I own, but by the way I live in Christ and the example I can show to others in my living out of the Gospel.


Apathy by Toban Black
Apathy, a photo by Toban Black on Flickr.

St. Paul says, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep,” (Romans 12:15).

Why then do so many people think it is their duty to stay out of other’s lives? Far beyond some idea of privacy or politeness, people are increasingly becoming apathetic to what is going on with other people. And this doesn’t just go for strangers who may be crying around you, but even those closest to us: our friends and family.

Paul preaches unity; the culture of the day preaches isolation and independence.

The early disciples pooled everything that they had, sharing all resources, so that all had enough food and clothing. Today, we are expected to “make it on our own,” and “not be a burden.”

Where is the love?

Is it truly a better society to live as though we didn’t need anyone or anything besides ourselves?

I don’t think so. I think community and caring and sharing and love are what characterize the best societies. And this means that we have to build relationships with the people around us. We need to care not only about their physical condition and material needs, but about their emotional and spiritual needs as well. It has to really matter to us whether they are happy or if they are sad.

And we have to be willing to give ourselves. Make their sorrows our sorrows. Make their joy our joy.

This is my beloved brother or sister. I choose to focus not on me, but on him or her. I choose to love.

Circumcision of the Heart

Scalpel by tudedude
Scalpel, a photo by tudedude on Flickr.

What is circumcision, anyway?

In a basic sense, it is the removal of extraneous flesh, usually done for religious or aesthetic reasons. It was also a sign for the Jews of their being people of the covenant. It was not optional.

Circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law; but if you break the law, your circumcision becomes uncircumcision. So, if a man who is uncircumcised keeps the precepts of the law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? Then those who are physically uncircumcised but keep the law will condemn you who have the written code and circumcision but break the law. For he is not a real Jew who is one outwardly, nor is true circumcision something external and physical. He is a Jew who is one inwardly, and real circumcision is a matter of the heart, spiritual and not literal. His praise is not from men but from God. (Romans 2:25-29)

Paul speaks of a new circumcision: a circumcision of the heart. But how are we to understand this?

Certainly, this new circumcision marks us as having entered into the new covenant. At our baptism, our souls were indelibly marked. God’s laws were inscribed on our heart. Is this what is meant? In part, perhaps.

But I think it goes further than that.

Physical circumcision is an active event. God doesn’t do it. You do it, or have it done for your child.

So, too, I think the circumcision of the heart is an active event. It’s not merely an awareness of the indwelling of the Spirit, but it is a choice that we make every day to be a disciple of Christ.

Every day, we need to take again our spiritual scapel and cut away from our heart (our will, right?) all of those things which are not of God…the “extraneous bits.”

And this, too, is not optional.

Why Christ crucified?


Jesus crucified. God crucified. I think the emphasis here is because of the assumption of Christianity on the part of Paul’s audience. To emphasize the resurrection would be to try to make a point of His divinity, or at least His favor with God. To emphasize His crucifixion, I think, is to highlight the very first days of the covenant made with Abraham.

And he said to him, “I am the LORD who brought you from Ur of the Chalde’ans, to give you this land to possess.” But he said, “O Lord GOD, how am I to know that I shall possess it?” He said to him, “Bring me a heifer three years old, a she-goat three years old, a ram three years old, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.” And he brought him all these, cut them in two, and laid each half over against the other; but he did not cut the birds in two. When the sun had gone down and it was dark, behold, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces. — Genesis 15:7-10, 17

In these days, a covenant was formed in this manner between two peoples, and whoever would violate the covenant would bring about the same fate upon himself as that of the animals cut in two.

And the men who transgressed my covenant and did not keep the terms of the covenant which they made before me, I will make like the calf which they cut in two and passed between its parts — Jeremiah 34:18

So man, as the party who violated the covenant, needed to die because the covenant was broken. In order to fulfill the covenant so that a new covenant could be created, one of the parties needed to die — to fulfill the covenant curse. While we were the ones who deserved death, God died in our stead.
It also points to how we are to live in Christ now. We hope to God’s mercy when we die, so that we may live with Him in His glory forever. But for now, we look to His Son. In particular, we look to His Son on the cross, which is the best example of self-giving love that the world has ever seen. Think not to your own comfort, but give everything for the good of others. Be ridiculed and mocked, so that they can come to know Truth. Allow yourself to be beaten and scourged, so that they can have access to a Love which heals all hurts. Wear their crown of thorns, so that they can have their own minds be filled with Wisdom. Carry for them the dead weight of their troubles and sins. Have your hands and feet be bound to a tree with spikes, so that they can experience freedom. Experience a moment of feeling abandoned by the Father, so that they may know they are never alone. Give up your Spirit, so that they may receive it.

He did not just allow blood to flow from His wounds so as to heal ours, but squeezed out every drop.

This is the kind of life we are called to lead. If God sees to the birds of the air and the lilies in the field, certainly He can take care of our needs; so we have no reason to dwell on our needs, but can look solely to our neighbor in love and ask ourselves, “How can I squeeze out some of my blood on his behalf, to make his lot in life a little easier?” Not a passive bleeding, as in handing over the spare five you happen to have in your wallet, or giving away clothes you don’t wear any more — although these are not bad things to do. But what can you do that will really be a sacrifice? What’s going to make you stop and think about it, and then deliberately decide that the person is far greater and far more worthy than any object, amount of wealth, amount of time, amount of effort that you could possibly relinquish?

And when you have done something really worthy of being called Love, seek out another situation, another person to Love, another instance where you can pour out the blood of your life for someone else.

For your blood is not your own; it is His. Your life is His life in you.

And He wants it to fall upon all His people.