During the month of July not only is the second reading at the Sunday Eucharist from St. Paul's Letter to the Romans, the next five weeks will present passages from the same chapter of Romans: chapter 8, often called Paul's "Gospel of the Holy Spirit."A fine way to enter into the newly inaugurated "Pauline Year" would be to engage in lectio divina of this inexhaustible chapter.Pope Benedict has begun a new series of Wednesday catecheses devoted to St. Paul, but in the course of his earlier catecheses on the Apostles (now available in book form) he had already devoted four sessions to Paul.Here is an excerpt from his 2006 reflection on "St. Paul and the Spirit:"
In Paul's opinion, the Spirit stirs us to the very depths of our being. Here are some of his words on this subject which have an important meaning: "For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and death... you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship. When we cry, "Abba! Father!', it is the Spirit himself" (Rom 8: 2, 15) who speaks in us because, as children, we can call God "Father".
Thus, we can see clearly that even before he does anything, the Christian already possesses a rich and fruitful interiority, given to him in the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation, an interiority which establishes him in an objective and original relationship of sonship with God. This is our greatest dignity: to be not merely images but also children of God. And it is an invitation to live our sonship, to be increasingly aware that we are adoptive sons in God's great family. It is an invitation to transform this objective gift into a subjective reality, decisive for our way of thinking, acting and being.
God considers us his children, having raised us to a similar if not equal dignity to that of Jesus himself, the one true Son in the full sense. Our filial condition and trusting freedom in our relationship with the Father is given or restored to us in him.
We thus discover that for Christians, the Spirit is no longer only the "Spirit of God", as he is usually described in the Old Testament and as people continue to repeat in Christian language (cf. Gn 41: 38; Ex 31: 3; I Cor 2: 11, 12; Phil 3: 3; etc.). Nor is he any longer simply a "Holy Spirit" generically understood, in the manner of the Old Testament (cf. Is 63: 10, 11; Ps 51: 13), and of Judaism itself in its writings (Qumran, rabbinism).
Indeed, the confession of an original sharing in this Spirit by the Risen Lord, who himself became a "life-giving Spirit" (I Cor 15: 45), is part of the specificity of the Christian faith.
The rest of the reflection may be found here.
About the Author
Rev. Robert P. Imbelli, a priest of the Archdiocese of New York, is Associate Professor of Theology Emeritus at Boston College.