Καθολικός διάκονος: St. Paul’s “still more excellent way”
I am reading another incredible little book on St. Paul: A Still More Excellent Way: How St. Paul Points Us to Jesus, by Joseph Durepos. It is published by Loyola Press in Chicago. The book is the fruit of Durepos spending one year engrossed in things Paul. This little gem is simply formatted and easy to read.
The contents of the book are 52 passages from St. Paul’s writings, which appear on the left side page and a personal reflection on the passage by Durepos on the right side page. Now, there are lots of books like this, most of the ones I have ever picked up I put down almost immediately, but this book is truly marvelous because of the deep insights of the author, whose reflections are not academic in the least, but truly personal thoughts about the passage means.
The book begins with Romans 1:16, 17: “I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith… For in it the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith.”
Here’s part of Durepos reflection:
“Paul says that our first task is quite simple – do not be ashamed of our story. To live as Christians, we must first find ourselves within the epic story of our faith. We must approach it with the awe and respect due a legacy of ancient and enduring spiritual heritage. We do this best by studying scripture, by prayer and instruction, and especially by learning the story of Jesus: his life and teachings, his death and resurrection.
“When we embrace this great story, we open ourselves to God who speaks directly to us and reveals our unique part in the unfolding story of salvation. This is God’s gift to all who believe. This is what Paul was saying to people of his time. I’m certain this is what Paul is saying to us today” (pg. 3).
In a way it’s too bad that this year is not the Year of St. Paul because of the many things going on in the church, the many revelations of sins of omission and commission, et. al. I am writing very much from personal experience by stating that without St. Paul, who really and truly points me to Jesus, I would find living through such times much more difficult. Most Christians who spend a lot of time studying Scripture have a verse or two they take as their own, especially since being ordained my verse is 2 Cor. 12:10- “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong,” which is preceded by this verse: “[the Lord] “said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness’; Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” These are words that can all too easily remain abstract and “inspirational,” or they can be realized, that is, verified through your experience and actually be inspiring, which means they give breath and life, which mere words can never do.