Called to Belong – Monday, 28th Week in ordinary time- Romans 1: 1-7

Called to Belong – Monday, 28th Week in ordinary time- Romans 1: 1-7

From our reflections on post exilic prophecy, the first readings now shifts once again to Pauline writings; this time to the Romans. Paul wrote this letter shortly before he made his last trip to Jerusalem. Some suggest that he wrote it in Corinth or in Cenchreae, both Greek cities, sometime in the winter of AD 57- 58.

Paul’s letter to the Romans is a letter of introduction and as an announcement of his visit to Rome. This is not a community he has evangelized and hence is unfamiliar with. Paul’s letter to the Romans is meant to be his reflections on the salvific love of God, offered to humanity, through faith in Jesus Christ.

Paul had laboured much in the Eastern Mediterranean region and now sets his eyes on Spain but before that he decided to make a stopover in Rome. Paul had made a collection from the Gentile Christians of Galatia and Macedonia. This collection was meant to be a sign of solidarity between the Gentile Churches and the poor in Jerusalem.

Paul’s letter is also necessitated by a change in the social order. Up unto this time the Jewish Christians were always the dominant group; the Gentile Christians came a poor second. All this changed, when in 49 AD the Emperor Claudius commanded the Jews and Jewish Christians to leave Rome. It was the Gentile Christians who remained and steered the faith community much to the surprise of the Jewish Christians, who at the death of Claudius in 54 AD, returned to find the Gentile Christians now at the helm of things; among them a change in dietary and calendric regulations.

These opening verses of Paul’s letter to the Romans, was probably a recognized formula of writing through which Paul greets the community of faith. He identifies Christ as the one who is both human (descended from David) and divine (declared Son of God) with the resurrection as the ultimate declaration or seal.

But Paul is also laying down his own credentials, not so much as a boast but to establish himself with a community that he is unfamiliar with and perhaps even suspicious of his motives. He declares that he is first and foremost a slave of Jesus who was called to be ‘set apart for the Gospel’. This was not Paul’s plan, this was HIS plan; one that Paul submitted humbly to.

But God did not only call Paul, for He also called the Romans to be ‘set apart’ in holiness. Paul tells his readers who they are: “called to belong to Jesus Christ,” “God’s beloved in Rome,” “called saints.” Like Paul’s call, theirs (and ours) is done by God, and therefore it is not something we do. We don’t make ourselves holy; that’s God’s business. And that transformation takes place through the outpouring of God’s love (Romans 5:1-5).

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