(Optional) Memorial of Saint Paul VI, pope
(Acts 25:13b-21; John 21:15-19)
Today the Church remembers St. Paul VI. He was pope during most of the Second Vatican Council and its immediate aftermath. Paul allowed many priests and sisters to be dispensed from their vows with all the soul-searching in the council’s aftermath. Yet he was not a modernizer. On the defining issue of the age, artificial contraception, Paul maintained the Church’s censure. He was a man with a mission much like his namesake St. Paul of Tarsus whom is encountered once again in today’s first reading.
Paul feels a calling to Rome. He has written the church there to seek assistance. He intends to launch from Rome a missionary journey to Spain. The reading from Acts tells of Paul’s request to be tried by the emperor. Could this have been a ploy to put in motion his grand scheme of a western mission? In any case, Paul has suffered for Christ much. He has already been imprisoned for two years. Shortly he will embark for Rome on a journey that will see him shipwrecked. In Rome he will undergo martyrdom, the ultimate persecution. He will be beheaded because of his belief in Christ.
Neither Paul VI nor Paul of Tarsus would deny that it is hard to follow Christ. His way of love means not only self-denial but also the resentment and rebuke of others. Yet their lives had at their base a profound joy. Evidently Christ stops along the way to let his followers catch up. They then experience the wonder of his company.