In the name of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.
In today's Epistle we hear words which at first may shock us, Saint Paul
telling us, ‘Be followers of me as I am of Christ’.
How could he say, ‘Be followers of me’ rather than say, ‘Follow Christ
whom I try to follow but not always succeed’?
I think, we must remember his life in order to understand these words.
He is, according to Tradition, the young man who stood watching over the
clothes of those who stoned Stephen. He went from Jerusalem, out, with
powers to persecute, to seize, to bring to death and judgment the
Christians in Damascus. And of a sudden, having met Christ, he changed
his life and did that at all risks.
And this is, I think, what he means when he says, ‘Be followers of me as
I am of Christ’: I was a stranger to Him, I have become one of His
people. I was a persecutor, I am now standing side by side with Him,
carrying not only the shame but the terror of it. Because if nowadays
some feel shy, timid, cowardly ashamed of professing their faith, in
those days, proclaiming oneself a Christian was tantamount to offering
oneself unto martyrdom. And he gives us a picture of what his life had
been, in the same passage of the Epistle which we have read: all he has
suffered because he choose Christ.
Elsewhere he says, ‘For me life is Christ’ - that means that all that
was Christ's is his, and all that was alien to Christ, all that brought
Him to Passion week and to the Crucifixion, he rejects. Nothing was left
of life for him except what was in harmony with the Lord Jesus Christ.
He accomplished what Christ had said to James and John: Are you prepared
to drink My cup? Are you prepared to be merged into the ordeal which
shall be Mine? – that was for Paul life with Christ: to share His
earthly destiny in all things, including martyrdom and death, if
And indeed, for him, whose heart had been conquered by the Lord Jesus
Christ, death itself became an object of longing: didn't he say, ‘for me
death would be a gain, because as long as I am in the flesh I am
separated from Christ’? He longed for death for nothing to separate him
from the Lord who was his Savior, who was his teacher, who had become
his whole life.
When he says therefore, ‘Be followers of me as I am of Christ’ he does
not pride himself of anything; he confesses his early life and he
proclaims the wonder which God has achieved within his life.
Let us reflect on this. Most of us, from childhood, we have been united
with Christ, brought to Him to be His own - but can we say that we have
chosen Him when, being older, we could choose for Him or turn away from
Him? Can we say that all our life is Christ, that anything which is
contrary to Him, to His teaching, to His being is alien to us, indeed is
repellent to us? Can we say that to live for us is to share with Him
both His resurrection and the readiness to tread the way of the Passion?
Can we say that we long for death because death for us is freedom and
Let us therefore reflect, time and again, on these words, on this call
of Paul, ‘Be followers of me as I am of Christ’. And let us reach out to
the depth and to the greatness of our vocation to be Christ's body, the
temples of the Holy Spirit, partakers of the divine nature, sons and
daughters of the Living God. Amen.