This morning, reading the Christian Community Bible translation of the first lectionary reading, Galatians 1:13-24, I was struck by the translation of verse 15:
But one day God called me out of his great love.
The word translated as love, χάρις, is usually translated as grace, though dictionaries also give mercy or kindness as its meaning, though it is also etymologically related to charity.
God called Paul, one day, out of great love, as he calls us.
Today the Catholic Church celebrates Blessed John Henry Newman, a nineteenth century convert to Catholicism from Anglicanism.
A brilliant professor at Oxford, he had to leave his position because his interpretation of part of Anglican doctrine seemed too Catholic. As a result he set out to prove that the tradition of the Church was held onto by the Anglican tradition, in the face of changes by Catholicism. He came to the opposite conclusion, published On the Development of Doctrine, and was received into the Catholic Church on October 9, 1845.
In the Catholic Church his intellectual honesty led him to be suspect by the more conservative members of the English Catholic Church. But he persisted in his work and tried to be a voice amid the factionalism of the Catholci Churhc in England. He was, surprisingly, made a cardinal by Pope Leo XIII.
Cardinal Newman has been taken as a patron for Catholic campus ministry in the United States, where many Catholic student centers on secular campuses are called Newman Centers.
A few years ago, a friend shared this reflection of Cardinal Newman, which reflects the sense of Paul’s comments to the Galatians:
God has created me to do Him some definite service.
He has committed some work to me
which he has not committed to another.
I have a mission.
I may never know it in this life
but I shall be told it in the next.
I am a link in a chain,
a bond of connection between persons.
He has not created me for naught.
I shall do good — I shall do His work;
I shall be an angel of peace,
a preacher of truth in my own place,
while not intending it,
if I but keep His commandments.
Therefore I will trust Him.
Whatever I am, I can never be thrown away.
If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him.
In perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him.
If I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him.
He does nothing in vain.
He knows what He is about.
He may take away my friends.
He may throw me among strangers.
He may make me feel desolate,
make my spirits sink,
hide my future from me —
still He knows what He is about.