St. Paul’s epistle to the Romans is different than most of his letters. First, he did not found the Christian community at Rome. With communities that he founded, his letters were often in response to questions they asked or controversies that arose. Second, He wanted to visit to visit the community at Rome and did so after he wrote the Epistle to the Romans. He is said to have been martyred in Rome. Thus, this epistle is more an essay on the Christian life than it is about any particular question or problem.

We see a beautiful expression of this reflective style in the second reading this Sunday. The gifts and the call of God are irrevocable. In the context Paul is addressing the Gentiles, the wider community. He was the apostle to the Gentiles. He had a strong conviction that God’s love was universal and that the death of Jesus on the cross and His resurrection was the means of salvation for all people not just for some. He even hopes that the Gentiles’ acceptance of faith in Christ would make the people of Israel jealous and stir their hearts to faith.

God does not withdraw His gifts because people reject the message. God does not withdraw His call to people because they fail and sin. The gifts and the call of God are irrevocable. This is Paul’s strong conviction. He shares it with the people of old and he shares it with us today. God’s response to our disobedience is not rejection but mercy. Pope Francis speaks a lot about mercy in his exhortation: The Joy of the Gospel.

On the Crucifix above the altar at Holy Cross parish in Nesconset Christ’s hands are extended. One hand invites us into the mystery of love on the cross and the other hand points us to the intimacy of God. In its artistic way it gives a visual expression to what St. Paul says in the second reading today: “The gifts and the call of God are irrevocable.”

In the midst of August let us recognize that Jesus gives reason for us to be people of hope. Let us not push God away because we think we are unworthy but let us call upon the mercy of God because we are confidence that God never withdraws His love.

May the Lord give you peace.

Rev. James M. McNamara

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