The life of St Paul, characterised by preaching, persecutions and prayer, can be a model for all Christians today.
That was the theme of Pope Francis’ homily at his Santa Marta Mass on Thursday morning.
Reflecting on the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, Pope Francis described St Paul as the ultimate action man. It’s hard to imagine him, relaxing under a beach umbrella, he said, because he was always on the go and rarely to be found sat in front of a desk.
Passion for preaching
Instead, the Pope said, St Paul was driven by a passion for preaching and was always on the move, announcing Jesus Christ to the world.
This passion for preaching led to a second characteristic of the apostle’s life which was the persecutions he suffered at the hands of the religious leaders of his day. But the Pope noted how Paul was inspired by the Spirit and was able to sow divisions between the Sadducees, who didn’t believe in the Resurrection and the Pharisees, who did.
Speaking in front of the Sanhedrin, Paul said: “My brothers, I am a Pharisee, the son of Pharisees; I am on trial for hope in the resurrection of the dead.” Immediately an argument broke out, the Pope noted, because these custodians of the Law were all divided in their beliefs. They had lost their faith, he said, because they had transformed their laws and doctrine into ideologies.
Man of prayer
The third aspect of Paul’s life, which Pope Francis spoke about was that of prayer, of his intimate relationship with the Lord. Alongside this tireless mission of preaching to the ends of the earth and struggling against his persecutors, Paul displays a mystic dimension of his encounter with the Risen Christ, whom he first met on the road to Damascus.
Paul’s strength, the Pope said, comes from being a man of prayer who constantly seeks and encounters the Lord.
Pope Francis concluded with a wish that we too may be given the grace to learn these three attitudes of preaching, of resisting persecution and of encountering Christ through prayer.