The Word Among Us

July/August 2023 Issue

Journeying with St. Paul

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Journeying with St. Paul: Dear Brothers and Sisters,

One of my favorite disciples in the New Testament is St. Paul. Over the years, I’ve heard people speak glowingly about Paul, while others have told me that he was one of the biggest troublemakers in the early Church! Maybe there’s some truth in both observations. But what is without question is that Paul abandoned his career for the sake of building the early Christian communities. He gave up the respect of his Jewish brethren for the sake of sharing the good news of Jesus, the Messiah, with the Gentiles. He abandoned comfort and ease of life for a life of danger, suffering, and, at times, heartbreak—all for the sake of Jesus Christ. That is why I admire St. Paul so much.

I also admire Paul’s relationship with St. Timothy. Paul had many excellent brothers and sisters in Christ, but of all of them, Timothy was the one he counted on the most. Reflecting on Timothy with the Christians in Philippi, Paul told them that he had “no one comparable to him for genuine interest in whatever concerns you. . . . You know [Timothy’s] worth, how as a child with a father he served along with me in the cause of the gospel” (Philippians 2:20, 22). Paul and Timothy’s dedication to building the early Church, their unity with one another, and their love for the early Christian communities inspire me to want to live more for the Lord and for his people.

Welcoming a Good Friend. The articles in the front of this issue were written by Joe Difato. As you know, Joe was the founding publisher of The Word Among Us, so I would not be writing this letter to you today had Joe not started this ministry back in 1981! Joe reflects in these articles on St. Paul’s strengths, as well as his weaknesses. He encourages us all to run the race well and even to finish the race well, despite our own personal strengths and weaknesses. As Joe reflects on Paul and Timothy’s friendship, it’s fitting for me to mention the friendship that Joe and I have had with one another for more than four decades. Over the course of many years, our relationship has evolved and grown in many ways. Through agreements and occasional disagreements, through watching one another in good times and in times of loss, one thing is certain: I am a better disciple of Jesus because of my friendship with Joe. I owe much thanks to the Lord that I met Joe when I was a young man.

I pray that the Lord blesses you with friendships that spur you on to run and finish the race well! And when your race is finished, may you hear the Lord say to you, “Well done, my good and faithful servant!” (Matthew 25:23).

Jeff Smith
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