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Pope Benedict XVI and Bishop Boyea celebrate the beginning of the Pauline Year.

Pope Benedict XVI and Bishop Boyea celebrate the beginning of the Pauline Year.

Pope Benedict XVI proclaimed a year dedicated to St. Paul, in preparation for the 2,000th anniversary of the apostle`s birth. The pope announced the commemorative year at a vespers service June 28 in the Basilica of St. Paul`s Outside the Walls in Rome, on the eve of the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul. The pope said that the Pauline Year will show ‘that the action of Church is credible and effective only to the extent that its members are willing to personally pay for their fidelity to Christ in every situation.

The Pauline Year runs from June 29, 2008, to June 29, 2009.

Bishop Earl Boyea celebrated the beginning of the Pauline year in the Diocese of Lansing at Mass on June 28 in St. Paul Parish in Owosso. The bishop said, ‘let us listen to Paul. He and Timothy would tell us to free ourselves of the myths that surround us, the myths that will draw us away from life in Christ. Instead, let us focus on Jesus, let us embrace his body, the Church; let us embrace his cross and our cross; and let us be ruled by the Holy Spirit within. Then we shall have life, life in abundance.’

You can read Bishop Boyea’s June 28 homily in its entirety below.

Solemnity of Peter and Paul 2008 Acts 12:1-11; II Tim 4:6-8, 17-18; Mt 16:13-19; St. Paul Parish, Owosso, Rev. John Fain, pastor; Dc. Gary Edington and Dc. Thomas Moore; opening of the Year of St. Paul

I am so happy to be here with all of you at St. Paul Parish as together we open a year of grace, a year to honor Paul, but mostly, to be the kind of Christians Paul wants us to be. I am also happy to announce that the Holy Father has decided to grant a plenary indulgence to any faithful Christians, who are truly repentant, and celebrate the sacrament of reconciliation, and receive holy Communion worthily, and who participate in a public plus exercise in honor of St. Paul. Today is certainly one of those opportunities. And now how would Paul want us to be?

Just prior to what we heard from Paul’s second letter to Timothy in which Paul tells Timothy that his time, that is, Paul’s time, is at an end, Paul gives Timothy a charge. He tells Timothy to preach, to be an evangelizer. However, that is not the most interesting element of the charge given. What is of more interest is why Paul wants Timothy to act. He tells Timothy: ‘For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths.’ Does anything sound closer to the truth of our own day? As so many of our brothers and sisters would rather listen to myths, rather heed teachings they like instead of teachings they need for their salvation, rather be pleased and satisfied than instructed and converted, we need this year of listening to Paul. He has warned us and we ignore him to our peril. What is it that Paul tells us?

Paul was not like the other apostles. He did not know Jesus as they did. He had not heard Jesus preach nor watch him heal others. He did not see Jesus die. Rather, Paul’s whole life is based entirely on an encounter with the Risen Lord. Paul knew Jesus as the crucified one who had been raised from the dead. Thus everything that Paul said or did was to point to Jesus. Our focus then must be entirely on Jesus. This became such an important part of Paul’s mission that he even taught his young Christians a Hebrew saying, Maranatha, Come, Lord Jesus (I Cor 16:22). Jesus will come again and we must be focused on that, being ready for his return by living every day in his presence. This is something we need to hear this coming year. Too many of us live in the myth that we will last forever or that there will be no judgment or that it does not matter at all how we live. This myth must be countered by the truth of Jesus who gave himself up completely for us and wants us to give ourselves up completely for him.

Some 17 years after his own conversion, Paul was hard at work in the Greek city of Corinth founding his most interesting church. While there he stayed with Priscilla and Aquila, who had recently been evicted from Rome. From Corinth Paul wrote the oldest documents in the New Testament, that is, his first and second letters to the Thessalonians. In Corinth, Paul emphasized the reality of the church and what it means to belong to the church. There is a great myth out there that we don’t need the church, that we can just relate to God on our own and be done with it. That certainly is a comforting myth for those who are too lazy to give one hour a week to worship God. But the fact is that the church is the body of Christ as Paul teaches. He had to counter the extreme individualism of the Christians in Corinth. And he did so by talking about the church as a body. But notice it is not the body of the church, but the body of Christ. Jesus is only Jesus as the head of his own body and the church is that body. You cannot love Jesus without loving the rest of him, his body, the church.

During the years of 52 through 56 Paul was in the city of Ephesus, on the west coast of present-day Turkey. Part of his time there was in prison. From there he wrote his letters to the church in Corinth, to the church in Philippi, to the church in Galatia, as well as his greatest letter, the one to the Romans. It may have been as a result of his imprisonment but his letters seem now to reflect even more on the cross of Christ. There is a myth that we are resurrection people AS IF this had no connection to the cross and that the Christian life should be easy; the church should ease up on the ‘rules’ and make is simpler for everyone. Yet, Paul reminds us that embracing the cross of Christ is really our surest avenue to the very love of God. The cross is a scandal, not something that we really want to think about our God enduring, especially since the Old Testament viewed being hung on a tree as a curse from God (DT 21:22; Gal 3:13). Yet this alone demonstrates the extent to which God’s love drove Jesus--that he would die on the cross for our salvation. It is the ultimate sign of love and thus how we are to love as well. This is really an irritant to those who do not want a difficult Christianity, who pick and choose those elements of the faith which they find likeable and pleasing. The cross is a hard teaching, but as Paul will conclude, he will boast only in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.

As he aged and saw that Jesus was not returning in glory, he became more convinced that already we were sharing in some of that glory. Thus Paul taught incessantly that we are filled with the Spirit of God and thus made God’s sons and daughters. There is a myth out there that we can live however we want; that if we can rationalize it, then it does not matter what anyone else says. We need to hear Paul telling us that the Spirit within, if we allow that Spirit to work and to rule our lives, will not let us get away with such a narcissistic view. The Spirit wars against the flesh, says St. Paul, and the Spirit teaches us what is right and what is wrong. Of course, to live in the spirit means we will follow the right.

Yes, this year let us listen to Paul. He and Timothy would tell us to free ourselves of the myths that surround us, the myths that will draw us away from life in Christ. Instead, let us focus on Jesus, let us embrace his body, the church; let us embrace his cross and our cross; and let us be ruled by the Holy Spirit within. Then we shall have life, life in abundance.

God bless you all.