October 5, 2012

From the Editor Emeritus / John F. Fink

Biblical readings: Romans, Ephesians and Acts

John F. FinkThis is the last in this series of columns about the biblical readings in the Office of Readings because next week I plan to begin a new series of columns to coincide with the beginning of the “Year of Faith” proclaimed by Pope Benedict XVI.

The Office of Readings includes six excerpts from St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans as the biblical readings for some feasts—Easter, Pentecost, the Immaculate Conception, the Sacred Heart, martyrs during Ordinary Time and holy men.

Paul’s Letter to the Romans is his masterpiece of theology, which is one reason why it is placed first among the New Testament letters. It stresses the importance of faith in Jesus Christ which, he says, has been given by God to both the Jews and the Gentiles.

Paul wrote this letter to introduce himself to the Christians in Rome. He longed to go there and then be sent by that community to present-day Spain. First, though, he had to make himself known to the Christians in Rome.

Therefore, he sent his associates Priscilla—or Prisca—and Aquila ahead as sort of his advance team. The married couple were among Jews who had been forced out of Rome by the Emperor Claudius 13 years earlier so they were anxious to return home.

After he heard from Prisca and Aquila the names of the leaders in the Roman community, he wrote this letter. It ends with greetings to 26 individuals, 24 of them by name, that he learned about from Prisca and Aquila.

Five excerpts from St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians are included as biblical readings in the Office of Readings for certain feasts.

Ephesus was a great seaport on the Aegean Sea in modern Turkey, where Paul labored for more than two years. Today, it is a popular tourist destination because its restored ruins are among the most interesting in the world.

Paul wrote the letter while he was in prison, probably in Rome near the end of his life. There is doubt, though, that the letter was sent only to the Ephesians, despite its greeting, because it seems too impersonal. It might have been sent to several local Churches in Asia Minor with the bearer of the letter designating each place in the greeting.

The letter is about the Church. Its six chapters discuss the unity of the Church in Christ, the Church’s world mission and Christians’ daily conduct.

Finally, the Office of Readings includes excerpts from the Acts of the Apostles on special feasts—those for the Chair of Peter on Feb. 22, St. Lawrence on Aug. 10, St. Luke on Oct. 18, St. Stephen on Dec. 26 and those of a pope or bishop.

We should all be familiar with Acts since it is the earliest history of the Church. Written by the same author as the Gospel of St. Luke, it picks up the story told in his Gospel. It begins with Christ’s ascension into heaven, and continues until St. Paul’s first imprisonment in Rome—a period of about 35 years. †

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