…is how Paul ends his letter in II Timothy, one of the last letters Paul wrote. Paul is in prison, probably knowing that his life on earth is nearing its end, and he writes to Timothy some final words. This letter is so full of emotion! “As for me, I am already being poured out as a libation, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the fight.”
Our group visited the Church of St. Paul Outside the Wall, the traditional site of Paul’s burial. I was moved to tears being in this sacred place. I am a big fan of Apostle Paul. This place allowed me to pause and reflect on Paul’s ministry…the many miles he traveled, the beatings, the stonings, the shipwrecks, the lonely times, the rejections…all for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. What an inspiration and embodiment of faithfulness! I also had to think about how the church has at times flippantly dismissed Paul’s writings because we simply disagreed with him through our 21st century lenses. This saddens me. Paul is a hero of mine and being in this church helped surface my gratitude for his life witness, and deep pastoral and evangelistic care for the early Christian movement.
I unexpectedly was overcome by pictures of all the Popes who served in the Roman Catholic Church. Standing in the basilica with hundreds of portraits of church leaders encircling me reminded me of my own ministry calling. I am not Catholic, but this was an unanticipated holy moment that I’ll not forget for quite some time.
Tomorrow many members of our group fly home to Goshen and elsewhere, while some continue travels in Europe before returning home. It’s been a great trip filled with absolutely wonderful students. In reading their journals and reflecting on my own experience, it is safe to say that we come away from this trip with a richer awareness of Paul’s life and ministry, and his passion for spreading the Gospel of Jesus. For many, the Bible simply came alive to us in ways not previously known. A number of students said, “Paul’s letters and life became more accessible through this experience.”
To end my last blog posting, I wish to quote Paul’s final words to Timothy in II Timothy: “The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you.”
Photos below: 1. The Church of St. Paul Outside the Wall. 2. Statue of Paul. 3. The tomb of Paul. 4. Photo medallions of the Popes inside the church. 5. Outside the church with statue of St. Paul near the entrance.