I think of Saint Paul often. He thought of himself as the lesser Apostle, not worthy of being called an Apostle. I feel the same unworthiness being called a child of God. I recount my failings in an endless cycle I can’t seem to stop.
While the Apostle often speaks of his transgressions and weaknesses, he also exhorts God’s mercy. God forgave all of his sins, including the persecution and murder of the Church, and called him to be an Apostle.
This same mercy also applies to my sins. Yet I still fall into an all too familiar state of wretchedness, which seems to escalate during the holidays.
Christmas day, I struggled with wanting to go to church and dreading going alone. I decided to put my personal issues aside and attend.
A woman walking just ahead of me, stopped and said, “Good morning.”
I smiled. “Good morning. I see you’re going alone too.”
She nodded. “Yes. Shall we go alone, together?”
My smile broadened. “Yes.”
God’s first miracle. This woman and I sat together as friends although we had never met. We shared the knowing looks, the small talk, the smiles, and the little courtesies good friends share.
Just that was enough, but God had more planned for me that day.
As our pastor told us the story of the angels appearing to the shepherds, I saw a vision of angels surrounding him, a line of celestial bodies extending farther than I could see, a tiny glimpse of the glory of that holy night. God's second gift.
The scene changed. I saw my death, my body collapsed on the floor of our living room.
Jesus appeared, reached down and grasped my hand. He pulled me up into his embrace, put his arm around my shoulders, and personally escorted me into heaven. He showed me amazing things, delighting in my astonishment with each revelation as a loving parent would a child. With my every exclamation, His joy increased.
The vision faded, but not its impact.
I no longer fear death. How can I?
I understand St. Paul’s desire to complete this race we call life. I am ready anytime God calls me, but in the meantime, I will live my life with an altered set of priorities, and with less fear. God's third gift.
“In all things we suffer tribulations, but are not distressed; we are straitened, but are not destitute; We suffer persecution, but are not forsaken; we are cast down, but we perish not: Always bearing about in our body the mortification of Jesus, that the life also of Jesus may be made manifest in our bodies. For we who live are always delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake that the life also of Jesus may be made manifest in our mortal flesh. So then death works in us, but life in you.” 2 Corinthians 4: 8- 12
Foot Note: It just occurred to me, the church I attend is named for St. Paul. God never leaves out a detail.