Paul on Paul – 11th October 2020

28th Sunday in Ordinary Time; Year A
Philippians 4:12-14. 19-20
I know how to be poor and I know how to be rich too.I have been through my initiation and now I am ready for anything anywhere: full stomach or empty stomach,poverty or plenty. There is nothing I cannot master with the help of the One who gives me strength. All the same,it was good of you to share with me in my hardships. In return my God will fulfil all your needs, in Christ Jesus,as lavishly as only God can. Glory to God, our Father,forever and ever. Amen.

It’s often remarked that ‘The Bible’ isn’t a book, but a library – we mustn’t think of it as just one long book, but a series of books built up over time. But often, even the ‘Books of the Bible’ are collections of fragments and writings. Paul’s letter to the Philippians is suspected to be one of these – with Ch 4, verses 10-23 forming a letter on their own.

I bring this up because, this 2nd Reading is essentially a thank you note – like you would write after a birthday or wedding. St. Paul was probably writing this in Rome under imprisonment after receiving supportive gifts from the Church in Philippi.

For this, he thanks the Philippians for their gifts, but he suggests he didn’t need them. He has been rich but gave that up to become a Christian. He was well-fed and watered but lost that security to spread the Gospel. He is certain “There is nothing I cannot master with the help of the One who gives me strength”. This is a thank you note both to his Christian brothers and sisters, and to the Father.

Thinking about this in the context of the 1st Reading and Gospel, which describe the rich banquets God will prepare for his people, but whose guests do not turn up, what can we learn from Paul’s attitude?  He has, “…been through [his] initiation and now [he is] ready for anything anywhere”.  Were he to be one of the invited guests to the banquet mentioned in the Gospel, he would not return to his farm, or his work or his family – he would be ready to go.

What, then, for us? In normal times, God’s banquet is always ready for us as guests. The Mass is our earthly taste of the Heavenly Wedding banquet, between Jesus and the Church. Christ, the slaughtered lamb, is waiting for us in the Blessed Sacrament. Like Paul, we have completed our Initiation in the sacraments, and so we too must be ready for anything anywhere.

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