Welcome back to a little liturgy. This week's focus is on St Paul and his work. After a shaky start, he became a great missionary and travelled widely around the Mediterranean sea. Perhaps this week is a good opportunity to think of the difficulties that people who live in this area are having at the moment and to keep them in our prayers. I hope you find something useful this week. Please click on "introducing a little liturgy" if you are new!
Summary of Liturgy of the Word
Ezekiel tells how he is sent by God to the Israelites who have become obstinate. God says to him that the Israelites "shall know that there is a prophet among them".
Our eyes are on the Lord till he shows us his mercy.
St Paul tells us that he feels very privileged to have heard God's special words but that he could get a bit too arrogant about it. He says that God has given him a "thorn in the flesh" or an "angel of Satan" to stop him from getting too proud. He is happy to have this problem because, as he says, "it is when I am weak that I am strong".
Jesus went to his home town to preach but the people were suspicious as he had grown up there. They were too familiar with him and could not respect him or believe in his words. Jesus said "A prophet is only despised in his own country among his own relations and in his own house."
Last week, we celebrated the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul but focused a little more on Peter than Paul. This week, we hear St Paul talk about a problem that he has. Interestingly, he uses two metaphors to describe it but does not ever describe it in a straightforward way. This could suggest that he is too embarrassed to talk about it or that his immediate audience already knew what it was. Over the years, many scholars have suggested what it might be. Some say that he struggled with belief, some that it was a physical illness and some say that he had difficulty controlling anger. Others suggest that it was a reference to the difficulties he experienced in life.
St Paul says "it is when I am weak that I am strong". Many things about being a Christian seem contradictory. To many people, Jesus was not the sort of Messiah they were looking for. They thought that someone would come and fight for them to be free from Roman rule. They might well have viewed Jesus as weak. However, even though in human terms he appeared weak and was crucified, he conquered death and demonstrated the power of God. St Paul tells us that he has a problem to deal with and he finds strength in fighting against it and following the word of God.
Activity during Homily
1) Draw a picture of a "thorn in the flesh".
This is clearly an unpleasant image. It makes us think of pain and being hurt.
Now draw two images that make you think of pleasant feelings and being close to God. You might choose a rose in contrast to a thorn and another thing that makes you feel safe and happy. Look around your church for some inspiration. Sometimes symbols can help us express feelings and ideas more clearly than words.
2) St Paul wrote many letters to people after he had visited them to remind them about the important things that Jesus taught.
Make a list of 5 things that you consider are important to know about Jesus and his teaching. You could look in the Creed if you need some help.
Jesus left us the Church to help us deal with the "thorns" that we encounter in life. One could say that St Paul himself started as a thorn in the flesh of the Church but then turned into a positive influence!
Other Activities and Resources
A) Click here for a lighthearted account of some of the difficulties that Paul encountered and here for another lighthearted account of where he went.
B) For the more serious minded, click here to view artwork based on St Paul's conversion story and read more about him here.
I hope you all have a good week.