The Passionists of my province offer daily homilies based on the readings of Mass. I contribute to the website, which I recommend. Here’s my homily for today:
I suppose we all try to visualize what famous people looked like. Many of them, like Paul the Apostle, left no portraits, but artists have imagined them for us. His fiery personality shines out in our first reading for today from his Letter to the Corinthians.
The statue of Paul at the entrance to the old pilgrim church of St. Paul Outside the Walls in Rome is one of my favorites. Paul’s portrayed as an old man, clothed in a heavy traveler’s cloak, bent and tired from coming a long way. He holds a great sword firmly in hand, but he’s not a military man. It’s the sword of faith he’s holding, a symbol of the faith that won hearts and banished darkness.
He has “fought the good fight” and “kept the faith;” his earthly journey’s ended. Pictures on the church doors recall his final hours, when Paul died decapitated by an executioner’s sword not far from this spot, after a period of imprisonment in Rome.
Did he review his own life then? I’m sure Paul wondered at the mystery of it all, especially the time a blinding light threw him from his horse on the way to Damascus, and then those hard journeys to towns and cities where he labored hard to bring faith in Jesus to so many. I don’t think he spent much time fighting old battles, though. Like those he had with the rival teachers who invaded his turf in Corinth.
When it’s all said and done, it’s not our judgment that counts at the end. It’s God’s judgment that counts.
Looking higher up on the façade of that great church that bears the apostle’s remains, we can see Paul the Apostle, pictured in the light of glory, his traveling days done. With Peter, a fellow disciple, he sits at the feet of Jesus Christ, the Risen Lord whom he loved so much. “Who are you, Lord?” Paul once cried, thrown to the ground. Now he knows, granted the grace, unmerited like all others, to see Jesus face to face.