Friday, January 25, 2013 -- Week of 2 Epiphany (Year One)
Conversion of Saint Paul the Apostle
[Go to http://www.missionstclare.com/english/index.html for an online version of the Daily Office including today's scripture readings.]
Today's Readings for the Daily Office
(Book of Common Prayer)
EITHER the readings for Friday of 2 Epiphany, p. 944
Psalms 31 (morning) // 35 (evening)
OR the readings for the Conversion of St. Paul, p. 996
Morning Prayer: Psalm 19; Isaiah 45:18-25; Philippians 3:4b-11
Evening Prayer: Psalm 119:89-112; Ecclesiasticus 39:1-10; Acts 9:1-22
I read the scriptures for the Conversion of St. Paul
Paul was successful. Born into a deep religious tradition -- "I am a Hebrew of the Hebrews. With respect to observing the Law, I'm a Pharisee... With respect to righteousness under the Law, I'm blameless." (Philippians 3:5b, 6b) He did as well as could be done.
And what did he get from that effort? Nothing but anxiety. You might call it a form of performance anxiety. He never experienced a sense of relief and acceptance from God for all his efforts, but rather doubt and anxiety. Am I being good enough? Am I perfect?
Paul felt isolated from others. After all, other people might become the cause of his failure in some way. He needed to be separated from any who were obviously wrong or imperfect. He needed to oppose or attack them if they might threaten his project of perfection. Other human beings, imperfect as they are, can be a problem for someone trying to measure up to divine standards of purity.
All of that legalistic work was death to him. It is his definition of sin. For Paul, the life of sin is precisely the life-project of trying to make yourself worthy. It only brings anxiety and judgment. Death.
Christ freed him from all of that. Through Christ, Paul realized that he need do nothing to be completely loved, accepted and free. Already he was completely loved, accepted and free. His status before God is a free gift. "By grace we are saved." All Paul had to do was to accept the gift through faith. "By grace we are saved through faith." Simply accept the fact that you are accepted. FREEDOM! And for Paul, it was particularly freedom from the law.
"In Christ I have a righteousness that is not my own and that does not come from the Law but rather from the faithfulness of Christ. It is the righteousness of God that is based on faith." (3:9b)
Because God accepts us before we have done anything to earn acceptance, we can be bold and confident, rather than anxious and self-obsessed. God loves us. That's that. Relax. Your life is not a self-improvement project. Simply be. God loves us, forgives us, accepts us. So we are free. And that freedom allows us to respond thankfully with spontaneous love. Love of God; love of neighbor; and love of self. That's all there is to it.