Paul’s Last Letter
Our reading for Sunday is from St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans. It’s one that we’ll read a lot during this Ordinary time.
It’s also Paul’s last letter (as far as we know). Unlike the rest of his Letters, it was not written to a congregation that he founded. Rather, it was to introduce himself to the large exiled Jewish community in Rome. That community was predominantly Christian, and the center of the civilized world at that time. Written in Greek, the common language for educated people of that time, it uses the diatribe – questions that are meant to elicit comment and opinion from those hearing it. (Letters, in those times, were read aloud to house churches. Worship took place in homes, before formal houses of worship were established.) Paul hoped to preach to the Roman congregation (and to seek support from them for a journey to Spain). Though some scholars dispute the length, it is his longest letter.
In it, Paul seems to have resolved some questions that he wrestled with in earlier letters. He makes no distinction between Jewish and Christian. He also discourses eloquently on the Spirit and the law, placing the Spirit in context of living under the law. He draws distinctions between living under the law and living under the Spirit, as he does in this week’s reading.
Sadly, Paul’s journey to Rome ended in his execution in 64 or 67. But the gift of his Letters is still with us, educating us and informing us on our faith journey.
Thanks be to God.
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The Rev. Charles Hoffacker is a retired priest of the Diocese of Washington