Today we begin reading Paul’s letter to the Romans. This letter is probably the last letter he wrote sometime in the late 50’s. It is a difficult and challenging letter to read but also one of the most important writings in the Bible outside of the Gospels. In this letter Paul reflects on his own identity as an apostle and our identity as Christians.
Paul identifies himself as “a slave of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle.” As a servant or slave God’s will, as revealed in Jesus Christ, comes before his own will and desire. Paul’s vocation or call is to be an apostle that is to evangelize, to preach the Gospel to both Jews and Gentiles. Like the twelve apostles Paul is sent (Greek: apostello) on a mission by the risen Jesus to announce the Good News of God’s presence and love for all people without distinction. God offers his gifts of forgiveness and reconciliation to all people and is longing for all of us to accept his gift of love and forgiveness.
Who are we as baptized Christians? Like the Roman Christians Paul tells us that we are now “Saints of God” in these words: “called to belong to Jesus Christ…called to be holy.” Our vocation or call is to recognize that we also are servants of Jesus Christ since we “belong to Jesus Christ.” We are saints who are “called to be holy.”
Paul ends this opening part of his letter with the greeting we often hear at Mass: “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” God and Jesus have given us and continues to give us grace, the presence of God with us each day to empower us to know and to do God’s will. God and Jesus also continue to give us the gift of true and lasting peace.
Paul addresses this letter not just to the Roman community but to our church here at St. Francis. What is Paul saying to you individually as you hear his words today? What is he saying to our parish, our church? Do you hear your call to be holy? Do you see yourself as a Saint of God?