For those of you who know me personally, you’ll know that I am known for my dislike of St. Paul. Throughout the years, I’ve seen nothing but an arrogant ultra-conservative man who pushes his views onto others in unhealthy ways. Also over the years, however, has been a small voice, beneath my own judgmental voice, inviting me to get to know St. Paul more. It wasn’t until recently that I’ve begun to see a new side of St. Paul that I can appreciate and resonate with–thanks to a series by Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM.
Paul, as I’m seeing lately, was a major figure for religious reform. He was proud of his culture and his faith of Judaism, and it was this deep religious fervor that led him on in his ministry from Christ. Circumcision, along with many of the other major Jewish laws and practices, were challenged and shown to be ultimately limited because it wouldn’t result in coming closer to God. Richard Rohr brought up a very deep point that resonates with me well–what would St. Paul say about the way we practice Christianity today?
There is so much discussion about the exoteric (or outer) dimension of the Christian faith–determining how one is ‘saved,’ what salvation means, who’s in and out, if communion is literal or symbolic, etc. While I admire the spirit that leads these discussions, I find them useless in the end. Christianity is not supposed to be about making our way to God. We have, however, created a faith in Jesus’ name that encourages people to constantly try to get things right so that we can earn our way to God.
Our truth lies in the esoteric (or inner) dimension of Christianity. Through my acceptance of Christ into my life, and allowing him to be the center of that life, I am transformed and brought into the eternal reality of God from which I came. Reality, with a capital ‘R,’ is God–the source from which we begin and ultimately return.
Both of these points are ideas that St. Paul stood for thousands of years ago, and ideas that I feel called to stand for today. My role as a priest, is to bring others to the knowledge and love of that ultimate reality that we call God. The force that loves and moves us into being, and through each moment of our lives, offers itself to us in the depths of our own being. Though our nature is fallen and broken, the invitation from God that calls beyond that comes through Jesus. This is the essence of Christianity.
So my journey with St. Paul has led me deeper into myself, and deeper into who Christ is for me. What is my true relationship with Christ? How has my own theology and denominational leanings legalized my faith, rather than allowing me to be set free through the mystery of Christ? How can I break free from the parts of my theology that are legalistic, and live deeper into God’s call for me to rest in the reality of who God is?