Why do you persecute me? is the theme of the prayerful triduum reflection posted today on our Pauline prayer site. If you are interested in the theme of conversion or Saint Paul’s conversion/encounter with Christ, I highly recommend you visit and pray with Sr. Kathryn’s reflection. (Artwork is taken from one of the panels of the exquisite door of the Basilica of St. Paul-Outside-the-Walls in Rome.)
I also wanted to reflect further on Saint Paul as communicator, using Pope Francis’s Message for World Communications Day last year. (Here is my initial reaction to the Message, entitled Communication at the Service of an Authentic Culture of Encounter).
Encounter is the “takeaway” and big concept in Pope Francis’ Message. If, as Comunio et Progressio states, communication is a “giving of self in love,” then encounter is a wonderful way of exploring “how” we love when we communicate. Pope Francis picked a surprising image to describe communication as encounter: the parable of the Good Samaritan. He describes the characters that such an encounter should have:
- healing (“Let our communication be a balm that relieves pain and a fine wine which gladdens hearts”)
- going out to bring the light of love and mercy to those on the periphery of human existence–those who are excluded, poor, marginalized, suffering
- engaging in a dialogue in which we are available, listen attentively, understanding the doubts, expectations, and hopes of all–a dialogue in which we are true citizens of the world of communication
- companioning others, walking at the side of the world
Saint Paul lives all of these aspects of communication profoundly. We can see this first characteristic of healing very much in the pastoral approach of his letters, in which he addresses the needs and questions of the local church. He is not afraid to delve into the questions and problems that are wounding the members of the Church, and he always assures his recipients of his love and above all, of Christ’s saving love for them.
In the Acts of the Apostles, some of Saint Paul’s apostolic missions begin with physical or spiritual healing (as when Paul cast out the demon plaguing the young slave girl in Acts 16, or healed the paralytic in Acts 14). Saint Paul himself began his life as a follower of Christ by being healed. After his encounter with Christ, Paul was healed from his physical blindness through Ananias; and of from his spiritual blindness through Baptism.
In his letters, Saint Paul also exhorts us to think and speak in a loving way, and to focus our thoughts and words on those things which uplift and inspire. If we add his emphasis on thanksgiving–not just for spiritual graces but also for the people that he is writing to–must also have been not only encouraging, but healing for both individuals and as an opportunity to reconcile within the local churches. The attitude of giving thanks to God is healing for anyone who goes through challenges and struggles, and it seems that Paul shared this attitude not just for the sake of others, but also because it had become key for his daily prayer and work as well.