Saint Callistus I, Pope and Martyr (Optional Memorial)
. . . called to belong to Jesus Christ
If you were planning to construct a building in an area subject to frequent earthquakes, you couldn’t just do it haphazardly. In fact, earthquake zones normally have very rigorous building requirements, especially for the construction of foundations. That’s because the foundation provides strength and stability to the entire structure.
What does this have to do with today’s first reading (Romans 1:6)? As we begin a nearly three-week series of readings from Paul’s letter to the Romans, we want to understand why Paul wrote it in the first place. One thing he is clearly doing in this letter is laying a strong foundation for his relationship with believers in Rome.
Paul wrote this letter around AD 57, while he was on his third missionary journey. He had never been to Rome but hoped to visit the Christians who lived there. He wanted to use the city as a base of operations for a future missionary trip to Spain. He knew how valuable a good relationship with the church there would be for his work, so he decided to be careful and systematic about what he wrote. He wanted to make sure the Romans could trust him enough to support his work.
And so Paul lays the groundwork. He introduces himself: “a slave of Christ Jesus, called to be an Apostle and set apart for the Gospel of God” (Romans 1:1). He presents “the Gospel about [God’s] Son” (1:3) and outlines God’s plan of salvation through the death and resurrection of Jesus. And since the church in Rome was comprised of both Jews and Gentile converts, he places a special focus on the relationship between Jews and Gentiles in salvation history. As a result, Paul’s letter to the Romans became an exercise in diplomacy that has also yielded some of our deepest Christian theology.
These next few weeks can be like a “construction session” for you as you read through this treasure of a letter. Take some extra time with the readings. Try to grasp the carefully planned foundation that Paul was laying. As you do, let the words sink into your heart as well as your mind, because it’s not just Paul’s foundation. It’s not just a foundation of Christian theology. It’s your foundation as well.
“Lord, help me to strengthen the foundation of my faith.”
Word Among Us