This Monday, my blog uses the daily readings of the Episcopal Church aong with a headline from world news:
Priests accuse Scottish Cardinal of sexual impropriety
27 Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, ‘What do you want?’ or, ‘Why are you speaking with her?’28Then the woman left her water-jar and went back to the city. She said to the people,29‘Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah,* can he?’30They left the city and were on their way to him.
31 Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, ‘Rabbi, eat something.’32But he said to them, ‘I have food to eat that you do not know about.’33So the disciples said to one another, ‘Surely no one has brought him something to eat?’34Jesus said to them, ‘My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work.
I’ve placed the gospel reading first this morning because I only want to make one point about it. I think the woman’s tribute to Jesus very remarkable. Can you imagine saying the same thing, “He told me everything I’d ever done” and being happy about it???
Last week I wrote about this blog being “like a daily interrogation by Jesus.” It’s more than that; it’s a daily exposure by Jesus, which is always painful, but also, as this woman discovered, always healthy. A daily dose of reality from someone who does not condemn but encourages (kicks ass), is the heart of salvation.
THE LETTER OF PAUL TO THE
1Paul, a servant* of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God,2which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures,3the gospel concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh4and was declared to be Son of God with power according to the spirit* of holiness by resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord,5through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for the sake of his name,6including yourselves who are called to belong to Jesus Christ,
7 To all God’s beloved in Rome, who are called to be saints:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ
Prayer of Thanksgiving
8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed throughout the world.9For God, whom I serve with my spirit by announcing the gospel* of his Son, is my witness that without ceasing I remember you always in my prayers,10asking that by God’s will I may somehow at last succeed in coming to you.11For I am longing to see you so that I may share with you some spiritual gift to strengthen you—12or rather so that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.13I want you to know, brothers and sisters,* that I have often intended to come to you (but thus far have been prevented), in order that I may reap some harvest among you as I have among the rest of the Gentiles.14I am a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish15— hence my eagerness to proclaim the gospel to you also who are in Rome.
This is a letter from a Jewish-Christian missionary to a small group of Christian believers in Rome, hundreds, possibly more than a thousand, miles away, across the provinces of the Roman Empire. Yet the writer trusts that the recipients will know of him, just as declares, maybe with some exaggeration, that the whole of the Christin world knows about them. Only a handful of years after the earthly life of Jesus called Messiah, there are groups of believers all round the Roman Empire who share a common faith and a common identity; and much of this is due to the efforts of the writer who announces that he had received from the one God “grace and apostleship” to be a messenger of the “glad tidings” of Jesus, and whose understanding of faith now makes him a debtor to both Greek (so-called civilised) and barbarian (so-called uncivilised) peoples of the great empire.
In the empire people make journeys for all sorts of purpose, often to conduct imperial business, military expeditions, or voyages of commerce. Paul says that he wants to journey to Rome simply to share with the church there the gifts of faith, “both yours and mine.” This international body exists simply to share its members’ common trust in God as the source of life. The way in which believers become causes of thanksgiving to God for each other is evidence of the generous spirit which characterises their life.
Even within the Roman networks of transport communication at that time was arduous. Yet the first Christian believers considered it essential. The message of Jesus and the new human communities it brought into being were essentially international and multi-racial, demonstrating a new way of being human. In a world where communication is almost overdeveloped, Christian believers today ought to be better than they are at forging a world-wide unity which breaks down the destructive identities of nation and race. The world-wide nature of Roman Catholicism is still betrayed by a power structure centred on the very city to which Paul’s letter was directed. It might help Roman Catholics who work for the reform of the church to know that members of other Christian churches still admire the potential of Catholicism for a truly international faith. The “open Catholicism” of Paul and the first Christian communities is worth study and imitation.