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FULLY ALIVE, PART 2: PAUL THE APOSTLE (1st Century A.D.)

Fully Alive Part 2

Open yourself to God's light shining in your heart, and reflect for a moment on these words: "For God who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness,' has shone in our hearts to bring to light the knowledge of the glory of God on the face of Jesus Christ." - 2 Corinthians 4:6

It's hard to imagine anyone in the sacred Scriptures about whom one could say more truly, "The glory of God is a person fully alive," than St. Paul. So much is known about him from the Acts of the Apostles, written by St. Luke, and by the many epistles attributed to Paul. His writings describe in detail the activities of this extraordinary minister of God and disciple of Jesus Christ. In the beautiful and inspiring language of his letters he guides his readers along the way to becoming a mystic and giving glory to God.

Paul knows that whatever he does he is giving glory to God. As he says in his First Letter to the Corinthians 10:31: "So whatever you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God." Paul emphasizes growing in love, in knowledge, and in wisdom. He says that for Christians to become other Christs, they must live and move and have their being in Christ.

Paul's story begins with his conversion from being a persecutor of the first Christians to becoming an ardent evangelizer of the Good News of Jesus. In the Acts of the Apostles (chapter nine) the writer describes how a light from the sky suddenly flashed around Paul on his way to Damascus. As he fell to the ground, he heard a voice saying, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?"

Paul answers this disturbing question with an honest question of his own, "Who are you, sir?" and Jesus replies, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting." Jesus then tells Saul to go to Damascus where he is baptized and instructed by Ananias who has also been told by Jesus in a vision: "Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and sons of Israel; for I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name." (Acts 9:15-16)

Paul spends the rest of his life evangelizing the Jews and Greeks (Gentiles) of the Mediterranean world. He brings them news of the gospel of Jesus Christ which prepared them to become followers of Jesus. In most of his letters Paul calls the members of his communities "holy ones," "saints," or "beloved of God" He begins his letters to them by showing his gratitude to them. The many letters Paul wrote were intended to encourage his converts. They reveal how he accomplished his missionary work.

The first chapter of his Letter to the Philippians sets the theme of Paul's preaching and writing to the Christian communities forming around him. He tells the people of Philippi that he prays that their love may increase ever more and more so that they may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ.

These people of Philippi in Macadonia, the first place in Europe where Christianity was established, welcome Paul and show him hospitality. Despite the many trials and difficulties Paul experiences, he knows that he will always find welcome in Philippi.

Paul calls the Philippians "holy ones," "saints," and shows his gratitude to all of them: "I give thanks to my God at every remembrance of you, praying always with joy in my prayer for all of you, because of your partnership for the gospel from the first day until now. I am confident of this, the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete if until the day of Christ Jesus.… For God is my witness, and how I long for all or you with the affection of Christ Jesus." (Phil. 1:3-6, 38).

Paul instructs the community on what it means to be a mystic, a person fully alive and giving glory to God. He commends them on their partnership in spreading the gospel since they have become Christians. He has every reason to hope that they will continue heir good work. Paul regards anyone who is a Christian as a holy one of God--as a saint trying to become more fully alive in Jesus.

What if Paul were to write a letter to you beginning, "To a holy one in Christ Jesus, grace and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." How would you respond?

Paul gives thanks for the generosity of the community at Philippi and encourages members of the congregation to keep up their good work. He reveals his enthusiasm for Christ as the key to both life and death. Paul gives glory to God in everything.

As he says, "For me to live is Christ and to die is gain." (Philippians 1:21) Like a true friend, Paul shares with the Philippians not only his joys, but also his anxieties. Giving glory to God does not mean having no problems! Paul recognizes the limitations of human nature. He even urges two women to settle their quarrel.

At the conclusion of this letter Paul thanks the Philippians for supplying his needs and gives them good advice which applies to everyone. He says, "I know how to live in humble circumstances; I know how to live with abundance. In every circumstance and in all things, I have learned the secret of being well fed and of growing hungry, of living in abundance, and of being in need. I have the strength for everything through Christ who empowers me." (Phil. 4:12-13)

What is remarkable about this tender and optimistic letter is that Paul wrote it long after visiting Philippi. He writes from his prison cell in Rome. For all his great suffering Paul remains hopeful, trusting always in Jesus Christ. He know that whatever he does he is giving glory to God.

Most of the letters from St. Paul in the New Testament are filled with suggestions that you can use for prayerful reflection on what it means to live fully and to give glory to God. He loved all of his communities including the people of Rome, Corinth, Ephesus, Colossae, and Philippi. Paul gives glory to God in everything.

Reflect on the following passage which can show a way to live life fully and thus to give glory to God:

"May Christ dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, rooted and grounded in love,may have strength to comprehend with all the holy ones what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God." (Ephesians 3:17-19)

Paul was in prison when he wrote his long letter to the Romans, a treatise on Christian life. In this well-known passage from his Letter to the Romans, he refers to "glory" (without using the word): "Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How inscrutable are his judgments and how unsearchable his ways!" (Romans 11:33)

Paul's letters present the foundation of the Christian message. To the Romans he says, "None of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's." (Romans 14:7-8)

Conclude this first part of the retreat by praying with Paul, the apostle, to live always as a full human being who gives glory to God.

"It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." (Galatians 2:20)

Click here to proceed to Fully Alive, Part 3


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