Paul was not one of the original Twelve. Yet, his letters to the various Gentile churches preceded the written record of the Gospel writers, and they form the first canonical writings of the Church’s belief and teaching. A non-eyewitness evangelized non-eyewitnesses caught up in the love of Christ, the first theologian in the Church and its greatest missionary.
If Shakespeare’s phrases have entered our daily vocabulary, so too Paul’s many phrases, for example:
“Your body belongs to God. … Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, and that God’s Spirit lives in you” (1 Cor 3ff)? “Now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor 13:13).
“Where sin did abound, grace did more abound. . . . For those who love God, all things work together unto good. . . . What then shall we say about these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Could oppression, or anguish, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? . . . Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Rom 5:21; 8:28; 8:31; 8:35; 12:21).
“We are God’s works of art created in Christ Jesus to live the good life as he meant us to live it from the beginning” (Eph 2:10).
Conflict over the Mosaic Law
It was only a matter of time before conflict surfaced over a burning religious question. Does salvation depend on faith in Christ or on faith in Christ with circumcision and the obligations of the Mosaic Law? In order to be saved, must Gentile converts first become Jews? Responding in the affirmative were Peter, the elders, and the small group of Judaizers.
Paul and Barnabas, his fellow-helper, resisted such a form of Christianity. After considerable discussion of the problem, Peter changed his position to favor Paul’s. Paul was able to convince Peter and the others to oppose the obligatory circumcision of these converts and their adherents of the Mosaic Law, but not without heated discussions.
Paul opposed Peter to his face with the attitude of one equal facing another. He had argued convincingly that he no longer saw “a role for the Mosaic Law God himself gave to his chosen people or for the customs and practices included in Jewish tradition for centuries” (Maria Pascuzzi, Paul: Windows on His Thought and His World 132). Salvation comes through the grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ rather than in assuming heavy burdens of the Mosaic Law that even Jews found excessive.
The Council of Jerusalem (A.D. 50) eventually adopted this position in the cause of Christian liberty. It was won against the narrow Judaizers and smoothed the way for the conversion of the Gentiles. “The Council thus freed the young Church from its Jewish roots and opened it up to the world apostolate rather than confront it. Paul’s position was vindicated” (Joseph A. Fitzmyer, “A Life of Paul,” Jerusalem Bible. 46:28-30)
Office and Charism
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Think of Peter and the words Office, structure and stability may come to mind. Think of Paul and you may think of Bishop Fulton J. Sheen or Billy Graham. In the fourteenth century when preaching was at a considerably low point, Saints Vincent Ferrer and Bernardine of Siena preached to large crowds to build up their fervor. Today these saints would make the preaching of the two pale in contrast.
The Council of Trent discussed many pressing issues, among which regarded where authentic ministry is attached, to the person or to the Office? Is it effective by means of the person or the Office? It was decided that a stable Church cannot exist solely on individual charisms.
The Catholic Church would never let a charism like Billy Graham’s stray from the Office. Charism, without structure, creates chaos. Marriage requires passion and charism as well as and commitment and stability, each being open to the other.
Preface for Today’s Feast
The Preface for the feast of Saints Peter and Paul reads as follows:
“For by your providence, the blessed apostles Peter and Paul bring us joy: