If you’re Roman Catholic and went to Mass today – October 30 – you heard this incredible statement;“All things work together for good for those who are called by God according to his purposes.” – Romans 8:28
Acting the part of St. Paul, I have proclaimed this verse in my performance, “A Visit With St. Paul,” for over ten years. It’s a great joy to dramatize the earthquake at Philippi, and the divine rescue of Paul and Silas from prison(Acts of the Apostles 16:16-34) . Using dramatic license, I connect the above verse from Romans to the powerful escape that St. Luke presents in “Acts.”
I emphasize in my performance that it’s “not many things, not most things, but all things work together for good for those who are called by God.” Despite a severe beating and ensuing incarceration, the Holy Spirit literally set the apostles free and orchestrated the baptism of their jailer and his entire family(Acts 16:33-34). This is not just an interesting Bible story. To us believers in Jesus, this remarkable promise of freedom is our birthright!
If you go to Mass tomorrow, you’ll hear this proclaimed from the pulpit;
“If God is for us, who can be against us? He did not spare his own Son but handed him over for us all, how will he not give us everything else along with him?” -Romans 8:31
This moving passage continues until verse 8:39, and is well worth reading. In fact, I urge you to take the time to read the entire eighth chapter of Romans, because it’s easily the heart of Paul’s great Letter to the Romans. I’d venture to say that Chapter 8 is not only the heart of Romans, but it just may be the heart of the whole New Testament!
Throughout Romans, St. Paul teaches, exhorts, encourages, warns, reprimands, but ultimately consoles Christians with words that are the fruit of his thirty years of serving as an apostle of the Lord Jesus. At the very beginning of the epistle, Paul describes himself as;
“… an apostle set apart for the gospel of God… the gospel about his Son… established as Son of God in power according to the spirit of holiness through resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord.” -Romans 1:3-4
Have you been set apart for the gospel of God?
If you can answer “yes,” how blessed you are! If you aren’t sure, or simply answer “no,” then I urge you to ask the Father for the grace to ‘unwrap’ the gift of the Holy Spirit given in Baptism. Then, you can assume an identity similar to that of the Great Apostle and receive the same promise that he received;
“If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, the one who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also, through his Spirit that dwells in you.”
Of course, there is more involved in walking in the footsteps of Christ. Paul knew this better than anybody. There is a critical need for authentic humility and ongoing repentance, for inner healing from the wounds that life inflicts, and for the grace of perseverance to “carry the cross.” Some of this pain is a direct result of living as a Christian in a world that has become increasingly hostile to faith in Jesus. (For what Paul has to say about suffering, go to Romans 8:18).
Here is some great news; if you take the time to read and re-read Romans 8, to ponder and to pray with this Word of God, to let its wisdom and strength seep into you (if not knock you over the head), then you’ll receive the precious gift of the Holy Spirit. In turn, you’ll obtain the spiritual gifts that are necessary to living a life of vibrant faith and authentic love. It is grace alone (a huge theme of Romans) that fully equips a life that is “set apart for the gospel of God.”
Let me put it another way and with less words;
If you open your heart and mind to what God wants to say to you as a beloved child of His, which is what you are, then in turn you will discover in His Word, with all its promises, nothing less than…
…the heart of God!