There are several key lines in this passage from chapter fifteen of St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans. The first that draws our attention is: “But I have written to you rather boldly in some respects to remind you, because of the grace given me by God to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles. . .” In other words, Paul realizes that the task of preaching to the Gentiles is not his idea or his choice. God’s grace is what moved his life in that direction.
Then he states: For I will not dare to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me . . . by the power of the Spirit of God . . .” Paul is very much aware that anything that has been accomplished through his preaching has been the work of the Holy Spirit, not him. It is an important reminder to all of us that the good we do is done by God through us. God’s grace is completely responsible for any good we may accomplish.
When he says: “the offering up of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit,” he is claiming that the faith of the Gentiles is a pleasing sacrifice made holy through the action of the Holy Spirit. From this statement, we can conclude that anyone who comes to faith through our preaching or through the example of our lives is also a pleasing sacrifice. Through these sacrifices, we exercise the work of the priesthood which is ours through our baptism.
When we remember that St. Paul is writing to a group of Jewish-Christians who live in Rome, it becomes evident that St. Paul is making these points to motivate that community to work for the conversion of the Gentiles of Rome. While it may seem that he is asking them to imitate him, he is actually saying that he wants them to imitate the work of Christ that has been done through him.
It is our privilege to serve the Gospel just as St. Paul served it through his preaching and through his suffering for the Gospel. As we receive the Body and Blood of Jesus this morning, we remember that this food and drink is the sustenance we need to accomplish the task that has been given to us through the Holy Spirit.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator