A weekly reflection from a member of the Hastings clergy
By Laura Stierman
Director of Evangelization, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton
What Would Paul Write?
I’ve always loved to write letters and send cards. “Correspondence” is one of my favorite words. Not only does it roll off the tongue easily but its etymology from the early Medieval Latin has subtones of ‘congruence, resemblance, harmony, and agreement.” Perhaps that’s why I love Paul and his letters so much. He writes to the early Christian communities in the cities of Rome, Colossae, Thessalonica, Corinth, and to the general province of Galatia. All of this in addition to his evangelic wanderings, conversion missions… and the inevitable imprisonments and beatings. In every instance, Paul’s letters are in response to the general messiness and particular issues of a fledgling and growing Christian church in an openly hostile culture. Hmmm. Does that scenario sound familiar?
Monsignor James Shea, president of the University of Mary, wrote a little work in 2020 titled, “From Christendom to Apostolic Mission: Pastoral Strategies for an Apostolic Age” that took the evangelical Christian subculture by storm. While the title is slightly misleading (there aren’t any concrete ‘pastoral strategies’) he does detail the signs and reasons why we are no longer living in an era called Christendom, and why evangelization and the passing on of the faith must look and feel like the early Church. It’s a book worth reading. Which leads me back to Paul, because if you want to see what the early church world looked like, read the letters of Paul. They were written before the four Gospels and are raw and honest portrayals of Christian communities.
Yes, like all Church communities, they disagreed on right-practice, neglected the needy, were imperfect in moral rectitude, and were pulled away from Truth by itinerant preachers claiming to know what Jesus really taught and thought. Hmmm. That sounds familiar too. His continuous themes are unity, faith, peace, and holiness. In other words, he wants faith communities to model Jesus in thought, word, and deed. If Paul were writing a letter to our faith community, what do you think he would say? I think he’d open it like all his letters: “Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, to the church of God that is in Hastings, to you who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ…” And then what? Would he admonish us for our apathy, being neither hot nor cold? Would he condemn our theological divisions? Would he correct our immorality and preach adherence to the Sacred Scripture? I am pretty sure he would approve of our attempts to channel Jesus in the way we take care of the poor and the homeless. He would love that we worship the Lord, believe in the Holy Spirit, and trust in God the Father. That little correction he might give us? Well, fraternal correction is balm for the soul every now and again, so even that, my friends, is a little good news. #whatwouldPaulwrite