Chapter sixteen of Romans is the last Chapter. Paul begins with greetings to a whole list of people. He names twenty-nine by name, but also mentions groups. I wish I could have that good of a memory. The more I try to remember names, the more I forget them. Paul did not forget them. Nor does Jesus forget ours. Paul seems to know each and every one of them. He has made an indelible impression upon them and they to him. There is such tenderness and love we read from this letter. Paul cares that each person really love each other. They are truly his children in Christ.
Some of these names have a particular historical value. We know of Priscilla and Aquila. These are the same people in the movie, “Paul, Apostle of Christ.” They did so much to help the people and the early Christians – both men and women whose names he gives and fills us in on that did works for Jesus and the community. Some names are relatives of Paul as stated in verse 7 and 11. They share with each other their mothers (v13), and even whole families (v 10, 11 & 15). They were a close-knit group that loved each other and helped each other up in faith. That is exactly why Jesus established the Church.
The purpose of the Church defines what God is calling us all to. My experience is that when a person does not acknowledge their purpose, many times they become the opposite of what God is calling them to. For instance, Satan’s original name was Lucifer, meaning “Light Bearer.” He was supposed to be the one who brings the light of Truth and goodness by witnessing to Jesus. But he has become the prince of darkness by becoming the father of lies and the enemy of Humanity. This is a challenge to us and the people of Jesus’ Church. What have we become? Are we a community that builds people up and gives others a reason to have faith in Jesus? Or are we a tripping stone to faith? How often do we share faith to plant it in souls? It seems that even in the poverty of early Christianity, the poverty did not keep them from being fruitful in faith. In fact, they were all the more fruitful because of their faith. Is this true for us, the Church today?
Paul warns them of factions. There can be many causes of these factions. We need to be aware of them. Put simply, anything that is put above our quest for Christ can be a cause of factions. It can be any excuse not to forgive, to judge others, assumptions, presumptions, selfishness, disordered desires; all of these over our relationship with Jesus and others. Realizing our purpose as a church and as individuals helps us to realize that goal. Can you imagine what parish life would be like if we all lived out that calling? If we became a community inspiring faith and hope, how would others see our community? How would this town be changed?
Paul ends his letter with a blessing. He almost never finishes with a blessing. What if we did that? We can be a blessing by the way we live and give a blessing by the way we speak. Imagine that, everything we are and do can be a blessing for others!