from the Letter of St. Paul to the Romans (DRC)
11 For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual grace, to strengthen you: 12 That is to say, that I may be comforted together in you, by that which is common to us both, your faith and mine. 13 And I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that I have often purposed to come unto you, (and have been hindered hitherto,) that I might have some fruit among you also, even as among other Gentiles. 14 To the Greeks and to the barbarians, to the wise and to the unwise, I am a debtor; 15 So (as much as is in me) I am ready to preach the gospel to you also that are at Rome.
from the Letter of St. Paul to the Romans (KJV)
11For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established;
12That is, that I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me.
13Now I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that oftentimes I purposed to come unto you, (but was let hitherto,) that I might have some fruit among you also, even as among other Gentiles.
14I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise.
15So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also.
Paul expresses his longing to see the Church of Rome. This has been a goal of many of his missionary trips and he had yet to set foot in the place. Little did he know that soon enough he would find his last residence there.
The purpopse of his mission to Rome? This may be among the more beautiful sentiments and emotions expressed in this letter--"that I may impart unto you some spiritual grace, to strengthen you: That is to say, that I may be comforted together in you, by that which is common to us both, your faith and mine. " For mutual strength and comfort. In the company of believers, even believers we have never met, if we are rightly focused, we should experience this mutual aid society. I know that when I walk by a cubicle where there is some evidence, no matter how small, of Christian belief, I am comforted--there is a sense that here is someone else upon whom I could rely for prayer and support in the midst of the storm. To this end, I have discretely displayed six different small icons and a plaque bearing the biblical admonition, "This is the day the loard hath made, let us rejoice and be gald in it." And having these, I have been approached from time to time to pray with others who are undergoing trials. Openness about our faith is something Paul will mention again--indeed in the verse that follows today's passage, when he launches into the profound theological reflections that make up the body of the letter. However, he touches on one of the reasons for it here--when we are in community, part of the body, we should support one another as the body supports all of its parts. It isn't an option, it is a requirement of a fully functioning body. Indeed, we don't have the "option" to respond to calls for prayers from those around us, we have the responsibility--prayer functioning something like the lungs, heart, and immune system of the body as a whole.
Paul goes on to say that he has often thought of coming to Rome, but the providence of God has not yet determined the time for it. The love that comes through these words, while expressed in something of a restrained fashion, perhaps because of the need for translation, is rooted in Christ and profound to the depths of St. Paul's being. If we refer to the Greek, the first word expressed in verse 11 is much more plangent than , "I long to see you." The Greek word means to yearn after or intensely crave possession. Longing is nice, but yearning speaks of a deeper beat of the heart. And part of this yearning is for what is expressed in verse 13, he longs to come to help the people within the Church to grow and to help the Church itself to grow in numbers (that I might have some fruit among you.)
Verse 14, while still within the salutation and greeting, begins a theme that will be repeated throughout the letter. Paul notes that "To the Greeks and to the barbarians, to the wise and to the unwise, I am a debtor." Which is to say, that Paul takes the wisdom of God from where it is to be found--sometimes with the wise, sometimes with the simple, sometimes with the people who profess His name, sometimes with those who know Him but dimly. It is a credo of courage and the root of the Catholic tradition. It is why the Church was unafraid to translate the Bible into many languages (after a time) and also why the liturgy is so constructed as to reflect some elements of the culture in which it is celebrated without altering the eternal center of the Mystery celebrated. There is wisdom to be found all around us--God speaks to us through the people we meet and the events that occur in the day. If we screen out ninety percent of what He has to say because it does not come from an approved source, then we deprive ourselves of enormous benefits potentially available to us. We should follow St. Paul's example and be indebted to wise and simple, greeks and barbarians.