Sexagesima Sunday 19.2.17 Perseverance
St Paul knew that whatever strength he had all came from Christ.
He tells us how weak he is; while we would be saying he is a great deal stronger than the rest of us!
But the point still holds: we can get by only with the help of God's grace.
Whoever we are, whatever the task or the problem we face, it is always and only by the grace of God that we can hope to make progress.
St Paul had remarkable perseverance. How many people would keep on the same path after all that suffering - shipwrecks, floggings, imprisonments etc? (2 Cor 11 and 12)
He was being motivated by a higher power, no less than the love of God. The love that God has for the human race was overflowing onto Paul, and enabling him to do these things, and willingly. He did not count the cost: For me life is not a thing to waste words on (Acts 20,24). He was never afraid of dying, on the contrary looking forward to being with Our Lord (Ph 1,23). Full stomach or empty – it was all the same to him (Ph 4,12).
He was centred on God, to a degree which is extraordinary for its rarity; but logically, he is doing only what we all should, but hardly anyone actually does.
This is what saints do, and what they teach us – that faith in God is the most important reality in our life, and it is only logical and natural that it should take precedence over everything else.
We are not all called to be as important, or as good, as St Paul, but we can each fulfil whatever role God has for us.
So that we can say at our final judgment: I did not bury or neglect the talents I was given. I did not refuse the call; I did not simply seek my own comfort.
Paul ran to the end of the race; so must we. He was one of those alluded to in the Gospel who persevered to the end, bearing manifold fruit.
We can be a little more like Paul, and a little less like everyone else.
We could be that, we feel, if we had the strength of conviction that Paul had… but where do we find that? Again, the grace of God. God gave Paul special revelations to drive home the point, and then expected him to live out that certainty.
We are not likely to have anything so dramatic as a vision of heaven; but in more subtle ways God will give us what we need, at least for each day as it comes (daily bread).
We go back constantly to first principles: We belong to God, we are answerable to Him; we are here to do a job for Him. None of this is for self.
This is what Paul knew all along.
Our life situations vary. We cannot be all travelling on ships, proclaiming the Gospel. Most people marry, and live in a house, and have babies. That is God’s will for most of His children. Only that we should not become so settled in such a life as to forget that we are pilgrims – we, and those who belong to us.
This is not our true home (Heb 13,14).
Every day we must go back to first principles, and re-position ourselves. Lots of prayer and reflection are needed. We do this every day because, as we see, so many fall away (cf Gospel - Parable of Sower); lest we become complacent.
If we do these things, our faith will grow, and our enthusiasm. It will seem more and more the natural thing – to put God first. That is all it takes.
May St Paul, and all the saints, help us to do as they did.