Romans 15: 7 — Welcome One another

This year, per the calendar, the seventh Sunday after Pentecost was quite full in terms of its readings. The Church commemorated the Fathers of the first six Ecumenical Councils, and the Great Prince Vladimir of Kiev, Equal to the Apostles. Great Vespers put forth six Old Testament readings. There were three epistle and three gospel readings set for the Divine Liturgy. I did not count all the scriptural verses read, but St. Paul’s epistle to the Romans chapter nine, verses 1 – 7 held my attention, especially Romans 9: 7, “Welcome one another, just as Christ welcomed you unto the glory of God.” This verse is eucharistic at its core.

By his incarnation, God the Son came to us as one of us. He gave himself to us, not only on the Cross, but in every act of his ministry. As one of us, he received us, or welcomed us to himself. His self-giving and other-receiving continues throughout the centuries in the Eucharist. In the Eucharist he again comes to us as he is present in the Sacrament: he gives to us his cleansing, victorious, and life-giving Body and Blood. He welcomes us, receives to himself once again in the relational intimacy of Communion. Within the context of each Divine Liturgy and its Eucharist Christ is manifested to the faithful anew — his Incarnation is re-presented to us. Recall what we declare to each other: “Christ is in our midst! He is and ever shall be!” Here, we receive one another, and welcome one another.

However, we must live the Eucharist beyond each Lord’s Day. We must live out the Eucharist beyond the walls of the church among family, neighbors, co-workers, friends and strangers alike. Remember the words which begin the dismissal from the Divine Liturgy: “Let us depart in peace.” This is a command, not a suggestion.

Throughout his epistles, St. Paul instructs us how to live with one another, how to be self-giving and other-receiving. I put forward just a few examples:

We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves; let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to edify him. For Christ did not please himself; but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.” (Rom 15: 1 – 3).

Do nothing from selfishness or conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but to the interests of others (Phil 2: 3 – 4).

Now we urge you brethren, to warn the idle, encourage the faint hearted and help the weak, be patient with all. Do not repay evil with evil, but always pursue the good, not only for one another but for all. Rejoice always. Pray constantly. Give thanks in all things, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus (1Thes 5: 14 – 18).

Not only does St. Paul teach us this eucharistic way of living, but so do the saints. I quote from one of my favorite saints, Francis of Assisi (a saint is a saint!):

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy. O, Divine Master, grant that I may not seek so much to be consoled, as to console; to be understood, as to understand; to be loved, as to love. For it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

We are to live in such a way that we might re-present Christ to each other, and to all around us. We are to live this way that we might manifest the Kingdom of God in this foul, darkened world. We are to live this way that we might experience the love of God among ourselves, meet needs, encourage, and complete this marathon of faith in the joy of eternal life in Christ our Lord. Truly, we are ordinary people, but we can live extraordinary lives in Christ. St. Paul’s words conclude this posting:

May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in one accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (Rom 15: 5 – 6)

In Christ,
Fr. Irenaeus

 

 



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