Spiritual and Theological Riches in Paul’s Letter to the Romans

[music playing] Your presence here
this evening obviously makes clear your interest
in the letter to the Romans and your commitment to scripture
and to scripture study. As you know, the church’s
daily lectionary cycles through many books of the
Bible on a regular basis. And coincidentally,
this past Monday we began reading Paul’s
letter to the Romans as part of the daily cycle. So those of you who use
that as prayer, this is a perfect
opportunity, perfect time to be studying about it. And so let me take a moment to
introduce our speaker to you. A member of the
Wisconsin Province of the Society of Jesus,
Father Thomas Stegman is dean of the Boston College
School of Theology and Ministry as well as associate
professor of New Testament in the ecclesiastical faculty. His love for the Bible was
a seed planted early in life as his mother read to him from
children’s illustrated Bible. And as he grew
older, he was struck by how important the Bible was
to his non-catholic Christian friends, and so he began to
look at it more carefully. Father Stegman holds an MA
from Marquette University, a Master’s of Divinity
degree and Licentiate in Sacred Theology Old
Testament from Western Jesuit School of Theology, and a
PhD in New Testament studies from Emory University, where
he worked under the direction of Dr. Luke Timothy Johnson. Father Stegman is the recipient
of many academic awards, including the American Bible
Society Scholarly Achievement Award and the Aquinas Institute
Fellowship at Emory University. He held the Reverend
Francis C. Wade Chair at Marquette University in 2010,
and the Anna and Donald Waite Endowed Chair in Jesuit
Education at Creighton University in 2014-2015. He is published widely,
and is the author of two books on 2
Corinthians, including a volume in the series
Catholic Commentary and Sacred Scripture. Father Stegman is co-editor
of the Paulist Biblical Commentary, which is a single
volume commentary designed especially for those engaged
in pastoral ministry. And that’s going to
be published in 2018, so we’ll be gathering here
again in the fall of 2018 to talk about the resources
that that provides for us. In addition, he’s the author
of Opening the Door of Faith: Encountering Jesus and
His Call to Discipleship and his newly published book,
Written for Our Instruction: Theology and Spirituality in
Paul’s Letters, which was just published by Paulist Press. Both of those titles are
available at the back table. And you might want to
think about picking up your copy of Written
for Our Instruction, because in the spring
right after Easter, we’ll be offering an
online course using that book as a primary
text to look even more deeply at the book of Romans. So get your book
now, it’s on sale. Really, this is
the time to get it. Writing for the Midwest
Jesuit Newsletter, Father Stegman noted, “as
I think about my life, I marvel at the journey
on which God has led me. From a small town in
South Central Nebraska, to teaching Jesuits,
other religious and lay students who come from
all parts of the world preparing for various forms
of ministry in the church. What I try to inculcate
most in my students is a love and reverence for
God’s word in scripture, which leads to a love
and reverence for Jesus.” Love and reverence for
scripture and Jesus. How can we do better in
a New Testament scholar? So please join me in
welcoming Father Tom Stegman. [applause] Thank you, Jane. And thank you for
plugging the book. My mother wanted me to tell you
that the books back there make good stocking stuffers, so
you might keep that in mind this evening. I’m very excited
about this opportunity to share with you some of
the things I’ve discovered over time in in reading Paul, and
praying over him, and studying him. This book actually came
out of an experience. I was writing a commentary
on the letter to the Romans. And you find out
how disciplined you are when you write a commentary,
because the next thing is right in front of you. The next paragraph
is the next verse, you just have to
keep slogging away. And as I was working on
the letter sequentially, it struck me that it’s kind
of easy to start losing some of the forest for the trees. And so as I was writing
that commentary, I started working on some
essays that encapsulated some of the theological
and spiritual themes, and that became the
fruits of this book. Now, I’m not going to talk
so much about the book itself except to tell you a little
bit about the title, because it informs really why I’m
doing what I’m doing and also why I wrote the book. But since some of you
are buying the book, I’m not going to ask
you to double dip. You can read the book, I
want to go a little bit different in a different direction. So why the title Written
for Our Instruction? I steal most of
the things I use, and here I steal
the title from words that Paul himself uses in
chapter 15, verse four. And the context here is Paul
is exhorting the Christians in Rome to live in such a
way that they’re edifying or building one another
up, and especially in areas that could be contentious. And reading between
the lines, we can see that this
is a community that consists of Jews
and Gentiles who are trying to come together. And questions of what is
the proper food to eat, what feast days
do we celebrate– these were points of difference. And it didn’t just
follow along the lines of Jews and Christians– or Jews and Gentiles, I’m sorry. Some of the Gentile
believers were so attracted to Judaism
that becoming Christians, they wanted to follow some
of the Jewish practices. But think about
this that what is it that’s really
central to our lives as Christians is table
fellowship and worship. And so when there’s questions
about these differences, they can divide the community. And Paul was really wanting
the members of the community– especially those of
more robust conscience– to not so much insist upon
their theological correctness, but to act in love. And that’s the context in
which this quotation comes. He says we who are strong– and notice that you
never hear anyone say I’m on the side of the weak. The ones who are talking
there, they always associate themselves
with the strong. But Paul says, we who are
strong ought to bear– now, your translation might
say “with the failings of the weak.” That’s a bad translation. Paul, The weak don’t fail. He says, we ought to
bear with the weaknesses, or the in effect, the spiritual
immaturity of the weak and not seek to please
ourselves, not to put our agenda at the forefront. He says let each of us please
our neighbor for their good, to strive to edify,
to build them up. Why? He says because Christ
did not please himself. But as it is written,
now I quote scripture, “the reproaches of those who
reproached you fell on me.” That’s not obvious what’s
going on at first glance, but this is a citation
from Psalm 69. And if you read
all of Psalm 69, it tells the story of the
righteous sufferer– of one whose commitment
to God and God’s ways leads him or her to
opposition and suffering. And the person cries
out to God, and God vindicates the suffering
of those who are faithful. Paul read that psalm
and said, boy, this sounds an awful lot like
what God did through Christ. Paul tended to read the
psalms Christologically. So he reads the Psalm as
supporting his claim that this is the way that Christ lived– not to please himself, but
to give himself for others. And that’s how he wants
the Romans to live. So the text about
something had happened years ago, this psalmless
experience, Paul says, no, that was written about Christ. And moreover, that
story pertains to us, to Paul, and the
Roman Christians. He says, for
whatever was written in former days was written
for our instruction. That by steadfastness
and by the encouragement of the scriptures, we
might be people of hope. So my basic thesis here is
that the letter to the Romans, which was written 2000 years ago
to a distinct group of people for specific purposes– yes, it was written to them,
but as sacred scripture, as part of our New
Testament canon, Paul’s words were written
for our instruction as well. So that’s my hermeneutical
or interpretive key here. I want to say a word that
the cover of the book, if I may say, is beautiful. I wish I could
take credit for it. The previous book I did
with Paulist Opening the Door of Faith,
I was actually consulted about the cover. What do you want on the cover? And I said, well, could we
have like doors opening up, and then there’s also this
notion of a journey of faith and we have to
have a destination? And I kept describing
this, and the people were looking at me like, you
really don’t know anything about graphics, do you? This is way too busy. And so they didn’t bother
asking me about this cover. But I must say, it’s exactly
what I would have wanted. So you have to know your
limits, and mine are many. Believe me. Let me say a few words
about why I wrote the book and why I’m
passionate about Paul. Jane mentioned the
lectionary cycle. I’d like to reflect with
you a few minutes about how we Catholics read the scripture
and what part of the scripture we tend to favor. And when I talk about
a canon within a canon, that’s what I’m talking
about– what parts of scripture are most important to us that
inform our way of living. And in saying this, there’s
no critique intended. All of us have a
go to texts, right? So think of our
practice in liturgy, and particularly on Sundays. After Vatican II,
the lectionary was revised to a three year cycle. And each year, we read through
one of the synoptic gospels. And this particular
year, we’re working through Matthew’s gospel. John’s gospel then gets read in
Christmas and Lent and Easter. So we read the
gospel, and we read it in a semi-continuous way. We get pretty good chunks,
this year of Matthew’s gospel. The first reading, which
is an Old Testament text, is chosen in light of what
the gospel passage is. And the first
reading is oftentimes setting up the gospel passage. It might serve as
an a anticipatory way of expressing what happens. Gospel might be set
up as a contrast, it might be set up in the form
of a prophecy that’s fulfilled. The Old Testament
reading is linked somehow to the gospel reading. The second reading, which often
most often comes from Paul, is on its own cycle. So these last four weeks, we’ve
been working our way pretty quickly through Philippians. And starting next Sunday,
we’ll have five weeks of First Thessalonians. But over a three year period, we
go through the Pauline corpus, but they’re not
thematically linked. For preachers, this
can be a challenge. And Catholics tend to
like crisp homilies. Seven minutes is plenty, right? So for a homilist, it can be
challenging to incorporate the Pauline text, because we
tend to focus on the gospel. But also think of how we
behave at the liturgy. First reading, second
reading, we’re seated. A lector reads, proclaims
the lectionary selections is the word of Lord, we
say thanks be to God. But after the second
reading, what do we do? Now, we start
singing Hallelujah. We stand up often times. We had a beautiful liturgy
today at Saint Ignatius. It was our all school
liturgy at School of Theology and Ministry. We have a fancy book of the
gospels, and it gets held up. And then its an ordained person It’s not always
the pope who reads, it can it be a deacon, a
mere deacon or a priest. But think of how just that very
way of breaking open the word says though. We Catholics tend to favor the life of Jesus the
gospels because they set forth the fundamental story of Jesus. And as disciples
called to imitate Jesus and hearing the stories of
Jesus and his disciples, that makes a lot of sense. OK? But the downside is we don’t– while we hear Paul, we often
don’t learn a lot about Paul. Second reading second reason I was interested
in writing something on Paul in a more popular
way was as I was doing this, we were celebrating
the year of mercy, which Pope Francis promulgated. And if you read his the bull
that announced that, the very first
biblical quotation is from Ephesians
chapter two verse four, with its reference to
God’s being rich in mercy. As I look at the
pope’s writings, he makes a tremendous and
substantial use of scripture– and all of scripture. He oftentimes cites the gospels. But I’m struck by how much he
cites the Pauline text as well. And I would commend to your
reading if you haven’t looked through Amoris Iaetita–
or even if you have– go over paragraphs
90 to 119 again. He has a beautiful homiletic
exposition of 1 Corinthians 13, the famous encomium on love. So I’m convinced that
Pope Francis is largely informed by Paul,
and therefore, I think we should be
more attracted to it. Third reason for writing is
I took that picture in class yesterday. That was one of our students
during great themes. It was when I was teaching. When Dick Clifford teaches,
everything is clear. But when I teach them, they
start scratching their heads. It’s an interesting
line in scripture from 2 Peter, which is the latest
of the documents written in the New Testament. That’s basically
universally agreed by New Testament scholars. Probably dates early
the second century. It’s pretty apparent
that Pauline corpus is being collected and
being read and studied. And the author of
2 Peter says, there are some things in Paul’s
letters hard to understand. Probably the biggest
understatement in the New Testament. I think we can all
relate to that. Paul’s letters are hard to read. They intimidate people. First of all, he doesn’t
tell stories, right? The Gospels you get stories of The genre of the epistle
can be challenging, but Paul uses a lot of words
that we’re not familiar with, and a lot of words
that, quite frankly, are difficult to
translate in ways that I think capture
Paul’s meaning but still respect English. And we’re going to have
a few examples of that. I think Paul intimidates people. I think people can have
misconceptions about Paul. He seems kind of
obsessed with suffering. He’s focusing on the
cross all the time. He describes his own
ministry as carrying about in the body the very
putting to death of Jesus, being handed over
an account of Jesus. Sometimes Paul can
sound defensive. “What? Am I not an apostle?” he says to the Corinthians
in 2 Corinthians. He says, haven’t
I seen the Lord? Paul, as we know, was
not one of the 12, and his apostolic credentials
were called into question by some. He can come off as
being kind of bossy. And, according to some,
he and some of his texts can sound misogynist,
although I don’t think that’s the
right reading of Paul. Perhaps in our Q&A we
can we can come back to that. So those are some of the reasons
I wanted to write the text to make Paul more accessible. So in terms of what I’d
like to do with you is I want to focus a little bit
on that conversion of Paul, because this is really
the event of his life that that set him on a new course. But I think it really
is what gave him the insights that over time
he developed and set forth in his writings, where he
experienced God’s mercy, where he came to understand how
God’s mercy was paradoxically manifested through
the cross of Jesus, and where he experienced God’s
reconciling love and the gift of the spirit. If you read the text
closely– and the texts that describe Paul’s
conversion are found in the Acts of the Apostles, so
they’re not from Paul’s hand. Paul refers to this event
a few times in his writings where he talks about
seeing the Lord. There’s actually a number of,
I would say, allusions to this, and I’ll share some
of those with you as I set forth what
I think was going on. But I just want
to make a comment. First of all, any time I get
a chance to show Caravaggio I think is a great
excuse to do so. There’s no mention of– I remember as a kid, somebody–
you know when you find out there’s no Santa Claus,
and your world’s kind of changed a little bit? I remember this Jesuit telling
me years ago that, you know, there’s no horse in the story
of St. Paul’s conversion. And I looked in the text,
and sure enough, there isn’t any mention of a horse. He does fall down, but he
could fall down walking. But I would say that it’s fair
to say that after Caravaggio, there has to be a horse. In the end, and there
should be a horse. What’s going on? why? Was Paul why was Paul doing what he
was doing at this moment? Because this event happened
in the course of Paul persecuting Christians
or Christ believers. And I’m going to qualify
this in a second. Paul tells us in
Philippians– one of the things I have
to tell my students is we don’t learn a lot
about Paul Paul’s biography from his writings. And that’s a fact worth
thinking about itself, especially those of us
who preach and teach. Paul is too busy wanting
to talk about Jesus. He doesn’t talk
about himself a lot, and that might be a good
lesson for those of us in the teaching and
preaching ministry. But one place where
Paul does set forth something about his life before
his encounter with the risen Christ is in Philippians chapter
3, verses 4 and following. I just want to read this text
and walk through it with you. Paul says, if any
other person thinks he has reason for
confidence in his past, in his accomplishments,
Paul says, I have more. I was very sanguine. He says circumcised
on the eighth day, this is what good Jews did. He was brought up in a devout
practicing Jewish family. The people of Israel of
the tribe of Benjamin– Benjamin and Judah were
the two southern tribes that were not part
of the deportation of the northern tribes. These are the ones who
were deported to Babylon, but came back. And you probably don’t
spend a lot of time reading Ezra and
Nehemiah, but if you want to get a taste of flavor
for what Paul’s coming from– when the Jews came
back from exile, they really circled
the wagons and said, we were exiled because we
were unfaithful to god. We’re going to be super,
super faithful to God. And Paul says, this is
the stock from which I come, a Hebrew born of Hebrews. Perhaps Paul spoke– he
certainly knew Hebrew. Did he speak it? That’s argued. Here’s what was important. As to the law of Pharisee,
as to law of Pharisee. Now, Pharisees get a bad rap. We had a gospel today in
which Jesus is criticizing the scribes and
Pharisees, but I want to paint the Pharisees in
a more favorable light. Think of the
adjective pharisaical. When you think of that,
What comes to mind? It may be hypocritical, or
stuck on the letter of the law, as self-righteous. But that’s a caricature
of the Pharisees. And a way of getting
at this is we all know who the
Jesuits are, right? Do you know what the
word Jesuitical means? Just a second. I looked it up just
to make sure I– the Oxford dictionary
said, Jesuitical, deceitful, dissembling,
equivocating, hairsplitting, over-subtle. And I like to share
this with the Jesuits, because we would all make
the case that that’s not a fair presentation
of who we are. Pharisaical doesn’t capture
the Pharisees, either. And I’m going to speak in
broad brushstrokes here, but the Pharisees one way of appreciating
the Pharisees where they are predominantly– and I’m
using anachronistic language– predominantly a lay movement. There were some priests
who are Pharisees, but Pharisees took very
seriously that the scripture– and particularly the Torah, the
first five books of the Bible that came– that it contained the
commandments of God. Which all Jews to this
day consider still to be a great gift. It’s the God given
revelation of how they are to live as God’s holy people. We tend to think of
laws and obligations. Isn’t it wonderful to
think of it in another way, that this God has revealed how
are to be God’s holy people? Well, many of those
laws written hundreds of years before
Paul’s time pertain to issues that could
be somewhat esoteric. Many of them pertain
to the priestly cult. And if you’re not a
priest, they don’t seem to apply to you at all. Many of them apply to
agricultural practice. If you live in a city
like Paul seemed to do, they don’t seem to speak to you. But Pharisees like
Paul were convinced that, no, this is God’s word. It’s God’s revelation. It continues to speak. That all of those
commandments need to be interpreted
for us in our context that we can be faithful
as God’s covenant people. This is the whole thrust
behind the oral tradition. But what I want to
point out is what’s the commitment is to God’s
word is living as gift. And there’s a
responsibility to study it and to walk in
God’s ways, and Jews have this wonderful dynamism
of study and living, study and living. To this day, it’s something
we can all imitate. So this is Paul identifies
himself as a Pharisee, and then he goes on
to say as to the law– as to righteousness under
the law– blameless. That’s a fairly robust
self-assessment. He’s not saying he was
sinless, but he’s saying I was faithful to the law. And Jews have ways– just like
we have Catholics have ways. When we sin, there’s cultic
celebrations, cultic acts we do in repentance. But Paul says, elsewhere, I
far exceeded my contemporaries in zeal for the Torah. And then he says as
to zeal for the law, a persecutor of the church. And that’s what I think
we need to wrestle with to appreciate what Paul was
doing at the moment of being canon with the risen Lord. First, when Paul talks about
persecuting the church, he’s talking about
persecuting fellow Jews, but these were Jews who had
come to believe that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God. OK? Keep in mind that what we
would call the first Christians were Jesus’ disciples. Mary, the mother of God. They’re all Jews, right? OK. So these are the folks
that Paul is persecuting. Why would he persecute them? Because let’s think
of the gospels– what we know of the gospels. The Pharisees and Jesus
are always debating things. Now, I want to be
careful in saying this. Jesus, There’s no evidence
Jesus was a Pharisee. But of all the groups that we
know of from the Jewish world at that time– whether we’re talking about
Essenes, Zealots, Sadducees, Pharisees– I would say Jesus is most
akin with the Pharisees, because notice what Jesus
does in those conversations. It’s really about how do
we interpret God’s law? What’s right to
do on the Sabbath? How do we come together to eat? These are really
questions of what’s God’s will through
these commandments. And we know that Jesus
interpreted the law in a different way
in many respects. He seemed to relax some of
the Sabbath restrictions. He did things that
others didn’t think were appropriate on the Sabbath. He wasn’t at least His disciples didn’t
seem to be as concerned with some purity laws. This could be problematic. Jesus seems to be– from a certain perspective, he
plays a little fast and loose with some of this stuff. Also, we know from this time
that those who were really concerned with the law– the
kind of the proto-rabbis– it was really important
that you could make a case that well, I
come from this tradition of interpretation. So I was taught by– in Paul’s case– Rabbi
Gamaliel, one of the greats. Who taught Jesus? Nobody. Maybe Mary and Joseph a little
bit when he was younger. When Jesus gets
questioned, by what authority do you say these
things and do these things? Jesus seems to intimate
that he’s very closely connected to God, no? Put yourself in Paul’s
shoes, and as a Pharisee, that can sound a little
bit dangerous, right? And then we know that
Jesus was put to death, and he was put to
death by crucifixion. There’s a passage
in Deuteronomy, Deuteronomy 21:23–
and keep in mind, Deuteronomy is part of the
Torah, those first five books– that says cursed is
anyone hanged on a tree. It’s the text Paul alludes
to in Galatians 3:13, and I think there he
is kind of giving us a little bit of a window
into his prior thinking. So you kind of add
all this together that if we look
at Jesus’ actions from somebody who’s very zealous
to try to fulfill the law as carefully and as closely as
one can, who died a death that is cursed by
scripture, and now you have these fellow
Jews who are saying remarkable things about him– he’s God’s messiah, God raised
from the dead, he’s Lord– that’s blasphemous. Paul reacts in a way
that we might not find the most helpful today,
but it comes from a tradition– I don’t know if you’ve
read Numbers 25 recently, but you have the
story of Phineas on the journey from Egypt into the
toward the Holy Land. Moses was very concerned
that the Israelites did not intermix with people– certainly no intermarriage. Why? Because you’ll go you’ll abandon the
God of Israel and worship other gods. And that’s what
happens in Numbers 25. Phineas sees this Israelite
man with a Moabite woman, worshipping Moabite gods. Phineas enacts violence. 1 Kings 18, think of
the story of Elijah and the priests of Baal, Elijah
ministering at a time when Ahab married Jezebel. What does she do? She worships the Baals
and leaves Israel. And we have Elijah acting
in zeal for the Lord, but as a zeal that is also
exercised through violence. And close to the time of
Jesus and the first Maccabees, when the Greeks are imposing
their ways on the Jews. And Mattathias,
seeing one of the Jews willing to sacrifice to
Greek gods and eat pork– Mattathias, out of zeal for
the Lord, enacts violence. This is kind of this tradition. So this is what Paul is– actually, Apostles presents
a pretty dramatic way that Paul persecutes church. I’m not saying it’s
wrong, but my sense is what Paul’s persecution
of fellow Jews who are Christ believers probably
took the form certainly of harassment, perhaps
ostracizing, boycotting, making life miserable,
and perhaps even physical punishment. It’s very striking that in
2 Corinthians 11, Paul lists sufferings he’s endured. He says, five times I
received 40 lashes minus one in the synagogue. Paul didn’t receive lashes in
the synagogue as a Pharisee, he probably received 40 lashes
minus one after his encounter with the risen Christ preaching. He probably had the
same thing done to him that he may have
either done himself or approved of of others. Just trying to give
us a flavor of this. So this is what Paul’s doing
out of zeal for the Lord. These are misguided Jews. They’re not believing properly,
and they’re misleading others. And it’s in the course of that
that Paul encounters the risen Lord. I don’t know why I got a kick
out of that one on the left. It looks like the
Superman Jesus. The one on the right
is a little– actually, theologically, I think better. But this is momentous
thing, because think of Paul’s assessment of Jesus. He says in 2 Corinthians
5:16, we once knew Christ in a fleshly
way, in an uninformed way. My sense is he thought of
him as a false messiah. He says, we no
longer know him so, but it’s because of this
encounter with one who was not only alive, Paul thought– according to,
the Acts of the Apostles the risen Jesus says, why
are you persecuting me. Paul is not persecuting
Jesus in his head. Jesus is dead. He’s persecuting
misguided followers. But now Paul comes to appreciate
that this Jesus is alive. And not only alive,
raised from the dead, but in a different
way than, let’s say, Jairus’s daughter, or the son
of the widow of Nain or Lazarus. They were resuscitated, brought
back to life, but they– Jesus is alive in the
transcendent, eschatological way. Death no longer
has power over him. And not only is he
alive and risen, he’s imbuing the
very glory of God. He’s been vindicated by God,
revealing himself as Lord. Now, I want to do kind of
imaginative exercise with you. Because when I think
about this event and picture myself as Paul– we have him knocked
off another horse– think of Paul that night. What’s going on in his head? I think he’s got three options. One option would be– you know, it was a long hot day. I’ve been working really hard,
probably need a vacation. Something very strange
happened, but that couldn’t have happened. No, that really wasn’t
an option for Paul, because the experience
was so real. It was the most real
thing in his life. He couldn’t deny the experience. He couldn’t deny the
encounter with one who was living and imbue
in the glory of God. So the first option
really wasn’t an option. The second option, which
ultimately won’t be an option either, is the other extreme. Paul could ask himself, how
could I have been so wrong? I’ve been studying the
scripture my whole life, and look what it led me to do. So let’s throw
out the scripture. No, Paul can’t do that,
because the scripture is the word of God. So the third option is the one
he took, the one in the middle. The experience is real. Christ is raised from
the dead, embodying the very glory of God,
and the scripture is true. So what I would
propose what Paul did over a course of time– this event happened
anywhere, let’s say, let’s date it 33, 34,
35, in that period, not that long after the death
and resurrection of Jesus. The earliest extant
letter we have from Paul is 1 Thessalonians,
which most scholars date to around the year 51. So there’s a significant
period of time. One of the scholarly
debates in Pauline circles is, did Paul’s thought develop? Do you development
within the early writings and the later writings? My sense is not a whole lot. The development would have
occurred before the writing. And what I propose is
that this experience led Paul to rethink
through a lot of things. Did you ever see the
movie The Sixth Sense? You remember? This is Bruce Willis,
and he was trying to help this little boy
who saw dead people. And there’s a real surprising
ending to the movie. And once you know
the ending, it’s interesting to go back
and watch the movie again, and you see all sorts of things
you didn’t notice before. Or a good mystery novel– once you’ve read through
it and you know the ending, you go back and read it and see,
oh, there’s all these clues. My sense is that’s how
Paul treated the scripture. It’s interesting. When you look at his letters,
he certainly refers to law, but Moses becomes a little
more ambiguous figure. Moses would have been the great
hero, right, as the lawgiver. And now, Paul seems
get very interested in the story of Adam. I’ll talk about
Adam in a second. Story of Abraham, and
the call of Abraham, to whom was given the
promise that he would be the father of not only
the Jews, but of the nations, of the Gentiles, the
Jew plus Gentile family. Deuteronomy– and it had
a coming into the land and the notion of new covenant
from the prophet Isaiah, especially chapters 40
to 55, huge for Paul. The psalms, the
righteous sufferer. And I should go back to Isaiah,
this notion of a suffering figure who bears
the sins of many, and through whom
god brings life. I would suggest
that in reflecting upon that experience
with the risen Christ, that it led Paul to think of God
and Christ and the spirit life in a new way. So I just want to
give a flavor of this. In the letters, the
Romans, everyone agrees that there’s kind
of a thesis statement that’s set forth in
chapter 1 verse 17, where Paul’s talking
about the gospel. He’s not talking about
Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, those gospels hadn’t
been written yet. For Paul, the gospel
is a living word. It’s what God has done
through Christ and descending of the spirit. And in the very
proclamation of it, it brings life to
those who receive it. It’s a performative word. Paul says the gospel is the
power of God for salvation– the dunamis, dynamite. It’s explosive. And he says in the gospel,
the revelation I’m sorry the righteousness of God has been revealed. It literally takes us
a his faith unto faith. Paul’s not always real clear. But here, fortunately–
that is chapter 1 verse 17– three two chapters later,
chapter 3 verses 21 and 22, Paul explains that. We had that reading
in mass today. Boy, I wish I could
say I planned this. It’s it’s providential
that that happened. I’m going to come to
that passage in a second. But basically, in a nutshell, I
pulled out a couple of passages from Romans, where
we get a sense of what Paul is about here. He says, “God demonstrates
God’s love toward us, in that when we were still
sinners, Christ died for us.” Paul tends to write in
very clipped manner. He uses– you have to throw out
a fancy word once in a while– enthymeme. You know what an enthymeme is? It’s a syllogism that leaves
one of the premises unstated so that the interlocutor–
the hearers– can be empowered to fill in the
blank and make the connection. Because at one level you say,
how does Christ dying for us prove God’s love? So there’s some intermediary
steps that you have to take. So elsewhere in the
letter, Paul says, God shows his love for
us, and that God did not spare his own son,
chapter 8 verse 32. God holds nothing back
in showing God’s love. That which was most intimate– we know of John 3:16,
God so loved the world– you have that in Paul. How does Jesus’ death then
show forth God’s love? Because Jesus doesn’t go
to the cross as a puppet kicking and screaming unwilling. Paul says elsewhere,
Christ loved us and gave his life for us. This was the expression
of Christ’s love. How much does Christ love us? God holds nothing back
in sending the son. Christ holds nothing
back in showing his love, and did this when we
were not only sinners, but if you look at
verse 10 on the right, Paul says while we were enemies. Paul came to consider
that his activity prior to the encounter with
the risen Christ, he was actually
acting unwittingly as an enemy of God– working against the
gospel, against the spread of the gospel. And Paul says, while I was God’s
enemy, God reached out to me and reconciled me. That’s how much God loves us. Reconciliation usually
takes two to come together, and it’s usually the
person who is hurt who has to make the first move. Paul says God’s
magnanimity is so great that God is the one who bridged
built the bridge that we might have life again. Anyone in here read Greek? There’s a few, I know. Father Rivers, where are you? OK. There’s a few. There’s a few Greek readers. I have bad news for
those of you who aren’t. You know what– from a Greek
perspective– a barbarian is? Somebody who doesn’t know Greek. I’m with a bunch of
barbarians tonight, so we’re going to have
just a little lesson here. I want to come back to Romans
3:22, the righteousness of God. God’s righteousness reveals
refers– in a nutshell, we talk about this
more in the Q&A– it really refers to God’s
covenant of faithfulness. This is something Paul knew
about from his early days studying the Jewish scripture. This is how God is. God’s righteousness reveals refers
to an attribute of God and to the action that comes
forth from that attribute. God is a God of covenant. God wants to be
in a relationship. God initiates the relationship. What happens when Israel and
God’s people are unfaithful? God keeps coming back,
offering the covenant anew. Here he says that
God’s righteousness has been revealed– the NRSV text says, “through
faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.” the Common English Bible,
which was a translation that just came out about six
or seven years ago says, “God’s righteousness
has been revealed through the faithfulness of
Jesus for all who have faith.” The phrase here is pistis,
faith, Christou, Christ. And the easiest way I
can explain this to you is Greek is an
inflected language. Not only are nouns verbs inflected,
but nouns take different forms depending on how they
function in the text. So if a noun is a subject of
a sentence, it has one ending, and if it’s the direct
object, another ending. And Greek can be pretty
concise, because you can put two nouns
together and there’s a relationship between
them that gets expressed by a generative case, OK? We have this in English,
believe it or not. And the example I want
to give you is the phrase “love of God.” There you have two
nouns, love and God. What does that
mean, love of God? Well, it’s ambiguous, right? If I say, “the love
of God is shown forth in that God sent his
only son,” your mind automatically interpreted
that phrase as God’s love. It’s God’s love for us, right? But how about if I say,
“The love of God let’s show forth love of God by singing a song of
praise,” now the phrase means our love for God. So the phrase is ambiguous,
and it’s in its use that we figure
out what it means. Pistis Christou, faith
in Christ, is ambiguous, and here you see two
ways of rendering that. And I am among a growing number
of scholars who think that what Paul is talking about here–
and we can talk about this in the Q&A exegetically, I
could argue this better– but my sense is
God’s righteousness is revealed first and foremost
through his sending Jesus– his son, the messiah of Israel– and through Jesus’
faithfulness– faithfulness to God– and
is faithful to showing forth God’s love, which for Paul is
focused in the act of Jesus giving his life on the cross. Elsewhere, Paul talks about
the obedience of Jesus. It’s the faithfulness
of Jesus who can reveal to us,
because he, in effect, is the personal expression of God– God’s very love for us. So Jesus reveals who God is. But also the flip side
of Jesus is human. Jesus reveals what it means
to be authentically human. And this is another theme
that Paul came to appreciate, and you see this in Romans
5, Jesus as the new Adam. I found this little comparison
on the right hand side. I liked it, except I wish– I’m not good with computers,
all I can do is cut and paste these things– ignore the bottom entry. And I realize since I’m
telling you to ignore it, you’re looking at it now. But that’s how these things go. But the first four
characterizations I think capture very well
what Paul’s about. Jesus not only
reveals what who God is, but he reveals what authentic
human existence looks like, the new possibility. So Paul will say something
in 2 Corinthians 5:15– or 5:14, 5:15– he says, the
love of Christ impels us. It’s a driving force within us. We’re convinced that one
died for all, therefore all have died so that
those of us now living live no longer for ourselves. That’s the old Adam way of
living, grasping after life where it’s not offered. Think of the story of
Adam grasping after life, trying to exalt himself. You’ll be like God, right? And also being disobedient
to God, Christ– as he’s presented in the
hymn in Philippians 2– Christ is not a grasper. He doesn’t cling to his
equality with God as something to be manipulated or clung to. He empties himself–
lowers himself– taking on human form to
show the love of God, and is obedient even unto
death, death on a cross. Jesus is reversing
the way of Adam, and is setting forth
a way of existence as marked by obedience
to God in God’s ways. And to put it most simply,
to reflect God’s image and likeness– and Paul
certainly believed that we’re created in the
image or likeness of God– is to grow in the way
of self-giving love. That’s what reveals
God to others. That’s how we
become icons of God. But that’s only possible
through the gift of the spirit. And one of the things that’s
clear through Paul’s writings and throughout the New
Testament– actually, Apostles is the best
example of this– early church really experienced
something dramatic and new with the outpouring
of the spirit, really transformed people. Think of the apostles
cowering in fear, abandoning Jesus at his death. Then at the Pentecost,
all of a sudden– not only speaking other
languages, but they’re on fire. They’re courageous. They stand up to
religious authorities that are telling them to be quiet. Said, no, we have to
obey God, and ultimately give their lives. This is a transforming spirit,
and Paul took that spirit very, very seriously. The most sustained
treatment of the Holy Spirit in the entire New Testament
is found in the letter to the Romans in chapter 8. And there, Paul says
some beautiful things. He says, the spirit
that we receive is not a spirit of fear. It’s a spirit of adoption– that God has adopted
us as God’s children, as sons and
daughters crying out. I like that little
picture on the right– Abba. Paul says this in Romans
8:15 and in Galatians 4:6. You know where else
that word appears? In Mark chapter
14 verse 36, Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. Abba. All things are possible
with you, but not my will, your will be done. This is how Jesus prayed to God. This intimacy that Jesus
had with his father is now an intimacy
that we can share through the gift of the spirit. As the church
fathers would put it, we become by adoption
what Jesus is by nature. And later in that
chapter, Paul talks about how the spirit conforms us
more and more into the likeness of Jesus. we take on And Jesus who is described as
the first born of many brothers and sisters. So Paul’s talking about
a family of faith. And it’s the spirit
that empowers us, enables us to take on
more and more of the family likeness. If you want to get a
sense of what that is– and this is very practical
for our spiritual lives– look at any of those virtue
lists that Paul sets forth, for instance in Colossians. Put on compassion,
kindness, forbearance, but most of all over
all these put on love. Or look at Galatians
chapter 5 verses 22 and 23, the
fruit of the spirit. You get a word
portrait of Jesus. There’s nine qualities listed. Not fruits of the spirit,
fruit of the spirit. It’s not a smorgasbord,
we get to pick and choose. Today, I went to the food
line and I bypassed the salad because the pasta and
soup look a lot better. Vegetables could be
overrated in some ways of thinking of things. No, you got to take– there’s no picking
and choosing here, growing in all these virtues. That’s becoming
more Christ like, and the spirit empowers that. But I want to be very
clear that for Paul, while individual growth
is essential, Paul– like the whole
biblical outlook– is more concerned with
formation of communities. And I’m going to
close with this, because I think,
my friends, this is a message an
understanding of church. It’s an understanding
of our spirituality. That is the most important thing
we have to share with the world today. If you ask yourself
this question, and if we could ask Paul– to my knowledge, we
don’t have any record of anyone asking Paul and his
answering this– but here’s what I think Paul would
answer to this question. Ask yourself this question. We believe that Christ’s
death and resurrection has changed the world, the
outpouring of the spirit. Now we live 2,000 years
after that those events. Has the world really changed? Has it really made a difference? Well, if the answer is
no, we’re in big trouble. We’ve been wasting our time. But you have to ask yourselves– I shouldn’t tell you what
you have to do anything– but I would invite
us to ask ourselves, how does it make a difference? My sense is if you ask
Paul, give us proof that what you
proclaimed happened. I think Paul would
say what he’s trying to get the Corinthians
and the Romans to do, that you bring together–
that the spirit of Christ. When people say
yes to the gospel, open their hearts to the
outpouring of the spirit, receive God’s mercy and allow
the spirit to transform them– Jews and Gentiles, slaves
and free, rich and poor, men and women. Think of all the ways that
humanity gets divided. Socioeconomic, ethnic,
religious, cultural, gender differences, all these
ways that we get divided. Paul says in Galatians
3:28, in Christ, there’s no longer slave or free,
Jew or a Greek, male or female. He’s not saying that
these differences have been obliterated,
what he’s saying is the way these differences
tend to put wedges between people can be overcome. And Paul is very passionate
about people coming together as brothers and sisters– and not only as
brothers and sisters, regarding and really
treating themselves, one another, communities of
faith, as brothers and sisters, but as brothers and sisters
for whom Christ died. So this whole argument,
for instance in Corinth– can we eat meat
sacrificed to idols? Paul goes for three
chapters on this. It’s a live question. But at the end of the day, Paul
says to those who are arguing, we can. There’s no gods,
those are idols. They’re false gods, and they
don’t believe that stuff. Paul basically says,
can’t you give up a steak for the sake of a brother
or sister for whom Christ gave his life? The church at its best is
diversity that forms itself around the nucleus of
Christ, that expresses the unity in diversity. And if you want to
get a sense of this, I’d invite you to look at
Ephesians chapter 3, where Paul basically says the
vocation of the church is to show forth to the whole
world a different way of being, a being marked by love. [Participant] Could you say something
about the relationship between Paul and James? [Fr. Stegman] Paul and James, yes. So James of Jerusalem. Yeah. And are you referring
specifically to Galatians 2 and Acts
of the Apostles 15? I just want to make
sure I have the– [inaudible] Yeah. So the question here
is the relationship between Paul and James. And in Galatians 2,
Paul refers to an event that we also have
recorded in Acts 15. And the question– and Galatians
is a good example of this– Paul is the one who
brought the gospel to Galatia, which is kind
of in the middle of what’s present day Turkey. The Galatians– from
what we can tell, it was an entirely Gentile
group that formed this church, and Paul presented
the gospel to them. And then after Paul left,
another group of missionaries came. And they basically said, Paul
gave you a cheapened storefront version of the gospel. Because to be part of
the people of God– and this actually makes sense
in the tradition– is in effect, you have to become Jewish. So the men be
circumcised, and to obey them the Torah more
stringently than Paul seems to have set forth. And so the question
really comes down to these Gentiles, who seem to
be in larger numbers than Jews receiving the gospel. How do we incorporate
them into this new entity? And we have to keep in mind
that early on, there wasn’t– the church and Judaism had not– the definitive split
had not occurred yet, so the categories
are somewhat mixed. So how do the Jews the Gentiles get
incorporated into this people? And according to the Acts of
the Apostles and Paul, that Paul and Barnabas– Barnabas and Paul
worked together in the Gentile mission– they came into Jerusalem,
and the leaders of the Jerusalem church
were Peter, James, and John. Not James, son of Zebedee,
this is another James, probably the author of
the letter of James. The names get a
little confusing here. James is apparently the real
leader of the Jerusalem church. And he seems to be of a mind– and keep in mind, the Jerusalem
church would be all Jews. So according to Paul and
the Acts of the Apostles, there was an agreement
that the Gentiles did not need to be circumcised. Now, here’s an
interesting thing. If you read Paul’s
version of the event– and he brought along Titus,
who was a Gentile convert. And Titus was kind
of brought along as an exhibit of look
what the spirit can do. He was bright as a
faithful Christ believer, and he was not made
to be circumcised. So Paul left that conference
thinking that basically the question had been settled. Really actually, the
process is interesting. According to Luke, the
author of Acts, Gentiles didn’t need to be circumcised,
but there were some concessions made to the Jewish
believers pertaining to kosher food and idols, OK? And in certain respect,
that made sense. How do you bring people
together at a table? But according to Paul, that
was not part of the agreement. And later on, Peter is eating
with the Gentiles, believers, and then people from James come. Now, this is where we
have to be careful. Did James really send them? The people who claim
to be sent by James rebuked and reproved
Peter, and says, you shouldn’t be eating
with the Gentiles. You’re eating unclean food. And Peter withdrew
table fellowship, as did everyone else. And one of the saddest lines
in Paul is even Barnabas left. So the issue seems
to be how Jewish do the Gentiles have to become. And I think what Paul– there’s debates on
how much Paul himself. When Paul says, when I’m among
Gentiles, I’m as a Gentile, but when I’m with
Jews, I’m a Jew. He’s kind of Paul the amoeba. He could kind of
conform himself. All things to all people, he
says, but to bring them Christ. My sense is that what Paul
learned at Antioch, which is where Gentiles and
Jews really came together in the same community, this is
where some these conflicts came into being. I think what Paul
came to appreciate was that anything
that in his mind got put Christ somehow to
the side is something he’s not interested in. And what I mean by that is this
concern for kosher food laws– and they’re important, and
they’re a way to bring people together– but if that starts
becoming the trump card, and somehow Christ
isn’t part of this– for Paul, that now
becomes something that he wants to set aside. But this is why Paul was a
very controversial figure. And you read the end of
the Acts of the Apostles, and what’s he accused when
he comes to Jerusalem? He’s teaching people
to disobey our laws. So what we have early
on is a real grappling with the status of the law
and the specific commandments vis-a-vis the gospel. And Paul ultimately was a
person who said for freedom, Christ set us free. But I want to be very careful
in talking about this, because it can be very
easy to say, well, that’s just legalism. No, it wasn’t legalism. These were very
important questions. How do you bring people
together to eat and to worship? What days to worship? They’re very
important questions. And I sympathize
with those who say Paul seems to be a renegade,
he’s throwing everything out. Paul’s position ultimately
won, and it’s a position that we’ve inherited, but I’m
sympathetic to the other side of it. Now, did James were James
and Paul opposed? I don’t think so. It’s interesting. The letter of James
where it says, show me faith that works– and people will use
that to say, well, Paul is about faith and not works. No, that’s not true at all. Paul opposes faith– obviously
the faithfulness of Christ– with works of law,
specifically circumcision, Sabbath observance,
and food laws, which mark Jews out as Jews. Paul says, no, that’s not
how God’s working, OK? But Paul says, what is faith? Faith works itself
out through love. [inaudible] You have to
have works with faith. So I’m not sure– that
was kind of a long answer to your question. But did I get to what
you were wanting? OK. Please, sir. Oh I’m sorry. [Participant] Could you say something about– [Fr. Stegman] I’m sorry. Sister can
you wait just a second? Yes. OK. [Participant] Could you say something
why Martin Luther was so fascinated by the letter
to the Romans, which led to the Reformation? [Fr. Stegman] Yeah, I think the real
letter for Martin Luther was Galatians, and
that freed him. And I think what
Luther was attracted to was in that letter,
Paul was so passionate about the centrality
of Christ, and he’s trying to get the Galatians to
see that these other things are somehow– they’re getting caught
up in other concerns that Christ is being set aside. Now you might ask yourself,
these Galatians who are Gentiles, why
would these men want to be circumcised,
especially after they’ve already been baptized? But think of new converts. You know how converts
really are more zealous than the rest of us? More is the merrier. And Paul is concerned
there that somehow these rival missionaries have– they’re distracting
the Galatians from the centrality of Christ. They’re getting caught up in
wondering about food laws, and do this, and that. And Paul says, centrality
of Christ, for freedom, Christ has set us free. We can focus solely on Christ. And Luther, who
was looking at some of the practices of the Catholic
church, which seemed to be– whether it’s– I’m blanking
on the word, somebody help me. [Participant: Indulgences] Indulgences, thank
you, indulgences– and all the practice that went
behind that and the concern and the emphasis saying,
where is Christ in this? Right? So my sense is Galatians is the
charter of Christian freedom. And I think Martin Luther read
that and saw the centrality of Christ and-felt-as
felt as if he had been– that was kind of his
Damascus experience, if I could put it that way. He had an experience of
Christ through that letter. That was very freeing for him. [Participant] For the stigma– and
I have been wrestling with Paul’s understanding
of the death of Jesus Christ as a revelation
of God’s justice and love with a contemporary theology
that says the death of Jesus as not willed by God, and
rather as a consequence of the injustice and
the wickedness of Roman imperial power. How do we reconcile
these two perspectives? [Fr. Stegman] [inaudible] my student. I’m directing your STL thesis. These are the kind of
questions I get all the time. So the question is, for those
who didn’t hear it– no, it’s an excellent question. How do we I’m claiming that the cross is
the revelation of God’s love and righteousness and justice– justice is kind of
encapsulated in that word righteousness– with
contemporary understandings of Jesus was put
to death unjustly. The Romans, the imperial powers,
were what put him to death. The killing of an
innocent man, right? So how do you reconcile these? Well, first of all, I
don’t think Paul himself– or from what I can see, any
of the early Christians– looked at what happened
to Jesus as historians might today who would
construe the death of Jesus as just this total act of
injustice by the Romans, OK? We have to appreciate that
the biblical perspective is that anything that happened– especially what
happened with Jesus– is somehow God’s will. OK? Now, here’s how I
would get at this from a contemporary
vantage point. And this is Tom talking, right? Not the Lord. Paul at one point
says, this is Paul. This is my thing,
not the Lord’s. This is my wrestling
with this question. I think one can say from
a biblical perspective, especially from a Pauline and
from a Johannine perspective, Jesus’ primary vocation,
as God’s son become flesh, is to reveal the love of God. So in the gospels in the canonical
gospels, we see this played out in
Jesus’ teaching, feeding, healing, reconciling,
the way he reaches to those who are poor and marginalized. Those are all ways
of revealing what God wants in inaugurating
the reign of God, in which there is wholeness
and life with God in community. Now, notice when
Jesus does that, that does evoke opposition. Because not something–
there’s forces in the world that don’t like
that, right, whether it’s political power, or
religious authority. So Jesus being faithful to that
mission of revealing God’s love ran into opposition. And in my own senses, there
comes a certain point in time when Jesus saw where
this was going. Certainly, the death of John the
Baptist made that clear to him. Why did John the Baptist
get put to death? He was faithful to what
God asked him to do– preach repentance. He told Hera to repent,
had him put to death. So at a certain point, I think
Jesus embraces the cross. Now, the night before he dies,
he’s presented [inaudible],, father, take this cup from me if
it’s possible, but not my will, your will be done. So the cross at that level– from a human historical
level– yeah, it was a great injustice done. But what gets revealed is that in this
is that first of all, the story doesn’t end on
Good Friday, right? It continues into Easter Sunday. Jesus’ resurrection,
I think, is best understood as God’s
vindicating what Jesus revealed in his entire life in ministry,
and particularly on the cross. God doesn’t let the story end
with Jesus’ death, and God– this is our belief in
the Paschal mystery– God is the God who’s a
creator, is the God of life. And God can bring life out
of death, grace out of sin, joy out of sorrow,
all these things. OK? So I would say trying to
kind of reconcile this, you could say, yeah,
from a human perspective, Christ suffered a
great injustice, and he was put to
death for bad reasons. Did God really want
that for Jesus? I don’t know if God wanted that. I do know that God wanted
Jesus to reveal God’s love, and this because love
is an offer, love is selfless, not violent,
love is an invitation. OK? It’s not it can’t be forced upon people. It was rejected by some, but
notice what the cross reveals. Jesus doesn’t ever
fight back, right? In effect, I think we
say the cross absorbed the worst that humanity
can inflict on humanity. Absorbed it. Because violence
begets violence, here’s where it can stop. It did stop. And those of us who are
called to be Christ followers are to participate
in that dynamism so that violence
continues to stop. That’s how I’d make
sense of it, and I’m going beyond Paulist text. I think your question
is a great question. I don’t think it’s a
question Paul wrestled with, but I think it’s one we
have to wrestle with. And that’s how I think about it. That’s one person’s construe. [Fr. Stegman] Thank you, Father Tom. I just have a question
about Paul’s experience of encountering Christ. And you made
mention of that when you said that his experience
was so real that he could not deny it. I suppose my
question is, how best do you think we should
talk about that experience? Because in Galatians
1:15 and 16, he mentions about God
revealing the son in me, rather than to me. So was that a profound
spiritual experience, or was it an objective vision,
or was it something else? [Fr. Stegman] I think it’s both. And so I’ve made a
big deal about Paul encountered somebody
who was alive, two subjects
encountering one another. In Galatians chapter
1 verses 11 to 16, Paul refers to this event. So at first he says he’s
talking about the gospel. He didn’t receive it
from any human being, nor was it Titus’s. It came to me through a
revelation of Jesus Christ. Now, this is one of
those ambiguous things. Is it a revelation about Christ? Is it Christ’s
revelation of himself? Because he says
elsewhere– for instance, in 1 Corinthians 9:1 or
in 1 Corinthians 15:8– he insists he has
seen the Lord, just as Peter and James and the
other apostles saw the Lord. And Luke insists upon this
in the Acts of the Apostles. I take that seriously. But then you point
us to a text in which Paul says God was pleased
to reveal his son in me. And so I take this
as, yes, there was an encounter
with Christ that happened at a particular
time and a particular place, but it was a gift, a
revelation, that continued. In some respects,
I think one could say it was a mystical
experience, too, an ongoing mystical experience. And Paul elsewhere will talk
about the type of experiences he’s had in prayer, right? So I think it’s both and. Again, I come back to that. What’s always struck me– and people rarely avert to this. The event of the
encounter with Christ I would date somewhere
in the mid 30s. We don’t have anything
from Paul till 51. That’s 15, 16 years. The Acts of the Apostles talks
about some of his activity, but my sense is, well, that
was a one off event that changed Paul’s life around. It wasn’t his last encounter
with the living Lord. I would also just
make the comment– and this could get me
into a little trouble– but I think it’s
really important for us to reflect theologically. What’s the role of experience
in God’s ongoing Revelation? We have texts, right? So this gets a little bit to
your question about tradition and new experience, because the
Gentile question– should they be circumcised– the whole
tradition would say, yes, they should be
circumcised, because that’s what it means to be part
of the people of God. That’s how you mark yourself
as part of the people of God. And yet, the experience of
people like Titus and others, the church was led to
another way, right? I think it’s an ongoing question
for many of the issues today. People’s experience–
and it’s tricky. And Paul ran into this himself. You know, Paul claimed
he saw the risen Lord. Well, how can you prove that? And you can easily imagine some
people say, well this is you know, he basically has given himself a degree. Right? Paul says, I don’t
need any credentials. I’ve seen the Lord. Right? So experience can
be tricky, but it has to be discerned
in the community. And that’s, I guess, the point
I would invite us to consider. I think we need to continue to
listen to people’s experiences today and discern them
in light of the spirit. Because my old
teacher Luke Johnson always used to say the spirit
is always moving in front of us. The tradition helps us kind of
know where we’re coming from and what direction, but
the spirit is leading us. And part of the way
the spirit works is through the lives of
folks– believe it or not, folks like you and me. Father Rivers. I was thinking. is this the complaint? [Participant] No, I just have a
little question. Many people read Paul
through Luke’s stories, but we don’t have
anything in there directly in the story of Paul. We have his letters, to be sure. How do you feel about
Murphy-O’Connor’s Paul’s history attempting to put
Luke and the letters together in a book that puts it together. It’s quite interesting, I think. [Fr. Stegman] Yeah. I like the– Jerome Murphy-O’Connor is
a great Pauline scholar. Dominican. We love Dominicans, right? We can get along. He was a big man who
had big opinions, and his confidence in his
opinions was as big as he was. He was a real
strong personality. So the question that
Father Rivers raises is we have 13 letters
attributed to Paul, and then we have the Acts
of the Apostles, basically 16 chapters– the Acts of the Apostles
is the longest book in the New Testament– describing Paul
and his ministry. We get speeches by Paul,
but the speeches from Paul sound like the
speeches of Peter. I mean, that’s one
of Luke’s points, right, that the early church
is speaking in one voice. So the question becomes how do
you take these two sources– because Paul doesn’t tell
us much about himself, Luke tells us a lot about Paul. So how do you use these
two sources to reconstruct Paul, his life, his teachings? Some would say Luke
is of no good to us. You go to the horse’s mouth. You go to a firsthand account. Luke’s is a second hand account. The thing about
Murphy-O’Connor does– and I’m sympathetic to this– is
there’s obviously differences. But there are places– and it’s particularly true
in Acts of the Apostles 18 through 19 I’m sorry 16 through 19, where Luke is
describing Paul’s entrance into the European arena– so Greece, Philippi,
Thessalonica, Athens, Corinth, and then Ephasus– and he describes those
things in great detail. And then when you read
1 Thessalonians, and 1 Corinthians, and Philippians,
the data lines up pretty well. So my point would be– Luke’s got his own
theological agenda, there’s no doubt about that– but I think Luke
is more trustworthy than some of the skeptics would
have us believe, that Luke is so entrenched in
his theological vision we can’t really trust
what he says as history. Where the two overlap, there
is significant agreement, which gives me confidence that– Luke’s filling in other details,
we can trust him there too. So but you should know
or people should know that not everyone
would agree with that. Some would say if you
want to know about Paul. Just go to his letters. Of course, that
raises the question, what letters come from Paul? So the last thing
I would say is– and I was telling Father
Dick Reuss this beforehand, we were talking about that
image of the handwriting. Do you know who wrote
the letter to the Romans? You can’t say, Dick,
because I told you. This is the one
letter that we have that we know who
wrote the letter. Does anyway know? We give a door prize. It’s interesting. At the end of Paul’s letters,
he often sends greetings to people on the other side. And then he says, and my people
here send greetings, you know, Luke. So an interesting thing happens
in chapter 16 verses 22 or 23. So he says, Timothy, my
fellow worker greets you. So do Lucius and
Jason and Sosipater, my kinsfolk, fellow Jews. Then all of a sudden
it says, I Tertius, the writer of this letter,
greet you and the Lord. He’s the secretary. He’s just like, wait a minute,
I’m going to say hi, too. And I got the pen,
I get to say this. Tertius wrote the letter
to the Romans, literally. Paul is the author,
because he dictated it. And with that, let’s
call it a night. Thank you very much. [applause]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *