The Work of Christ in Paul
By STANLEY B. JAMES
/ N one respect at least Mus solini showed superior wis
dom to Hitler: he left the head of the State in ultimate control, and. in consequence, though Italy no longer has a Duce, it still has a King. Germany. if and when the crash conies, will he less fortunate. There is much to he said for the combination of a permanent monarch with the temporary leadership of specially qualified individuals chosen by the Sovereign and, by their success. enhancing his prestige. The ideal, of course, is the combination of the two in the same person, but that is a fortunate coincidence of which history does not afford U.S many instances.
If it ,is permissible to jump from these mundane, constitutional considerations to the higher matters with which we are here primarily concerned, we may remark that, in the case of " Christ the King " this combination is found illustrated in a supreme manner. The use of the single title " King " somewhat obscures the fact that He fulfils the double role. But that title is used in its oriental signification. It carries with it the implication that, as in the case of His ancestor, David, He Who wears the crown is also the Leader of His people with Whom rests not only authority but initiative and Who possesses. as " the first-born of all Creatures," the highest rank and, at the same time, exercises the full function of leadership. It is this fact that we want to make clear.
"Christ the King"
The exercisc. may be not altogether unprofitable because our usage of the word " King," reflecting our British notions of a very limited monarchy, does not do justice to the original signification of the term, and we are apt to allow this usage to dietate our conception of Christ's sovereignty. Our belief in Him before Whom every knee must bow is not in question. To acknowledge His status, however, is one thing, and to be conscious of the fact that this involves the active exercise of
certain functions is anothee Yet, in the absence of the latter, our view of the former tends to become shadowy and nominal rather than real. A spiritual situation arises which has its political parallel in the case of a country where the monarch is no more than a figure-head and importance is attached only to those to whom his power is delegated. It is this state of things which has given colour to the fantastic views sometimes expressed by nonCatholics with regard to the powers exercised by the Pope and the bishops and priests to whom he transmits his authority. The real trouble is just the opposite of that which these critics
allege. It is that we are not sufficiently conscious of, or responsive to, Divine leadership when that is given through God's appointed Vice-Regent and take refuge from any unpalatable directions in the belief that Encyclicals are not necessarily infallible. A reference to the treatment accorded Leo Xill's Rerum Novaruni. Pius XI's call to Catholic Action and the present Pope's efforts cm behalf of peace will be sufficient to indicate what is meant.
"The Fifth Gospel"
It is not without reason that the Acts is described as " the fifth Gospel." It records the life of our Lord continued in His Chosen Peonle. Because it is pregnant with llis Presence, it is the sunreme proof of His resurrection. The difference between the spiritual stature of the responsible leaders and the programme which they are driven to adopt reveals them as acting under the impulsion of a Power not themselves easily identified as tha of Christ. On the one hand, are their timid. traditionalist, Jewish selves startled by the novelty and daring of the call which the conversion of paeans thrusts upon them, and, on the other hand. the relentless urging. breaking down the compromises in which they would fain escape the obligations pf obedience. of this Power. Clearly t mandate is not
hi the creation of their wn adventurous spirit. On the contrar , it has to fight for acceptance against strong racial prejudices. Or conkider the suspicions which made drficult the wholehearted acceptance of Paul—suspicions which only belief in a miracle could
overcome, and the irresistible impulse which finallY drove Barnabas (in one of the most momentous voyages ever taken) to Tarsus in search of the Convert. Such things, we repeat, were not/ of their own conceiving: they imply the active leadership of Jesus. As we read the narrative, we ate impelled to ask whether our own generation is finding escape in weak excuses and cowardly compromises from sonic similarly " impossible " undertaking laid upon us by this same Leader.
The Call that Didn't Come
The presence and power of the living Christ was shown supremely in the conversion of the erstwhile persecutor. It is puzzling, however, to find that, after the dramatic first phase of the Convert's new life, there follow some seven years' inactivity. During that time, did the vision fade, leaving him in doubt as to its reality ? The sequence disproves that supposition, for when at last Barnabas brought him the message that he was needed, he found Paul ready. Nothing testifies better to the Convert's sense of the vision's reality than the patience with which he waited its fultihnent—a patience that kept the bow taut, the spirit straitened, the mind exercised in the mysteries he was to proclaim. Paul's later career gives us the impression of one born for action. It is in the active apostolate that he finds himself. But we have to note also the evidences that the interval bad been tilled. In the seven years of waiting; he has grown spiritually mature, has acquired a grip on the Truth and is equipped in all respects for the demands which the postponed task will lay upon him. That, better than any premature apostolate, gives us an idea of the profound impression which the initial vision had made upon him. That the sense of vocation could stand the test of inactivity and overcome the suggestion that hc had been side-tracked, for gotten testifies to his sense of his mystic leader's reality.
A Mediated Leadership
No less instructive is the reason why (as we would suggest) it needed Barnabas's appearance to dig him out of Tarsus, Had he not received his call to thc apostolate, as he could afterwards boast, direct from Christ Himself ? Why, then, did he not take the initiative ? The truth is that Paul. for all his independence, had no mind to be a free-lance. The leadership of the Christ Whose servant he had become was mediated through the Mystical Body. The human representatives of his Divine Lord might be unduly suspicious of him or perhaps insufficiently appreciative of the service he was capable of rendering, but that did not excuse an individualistic impatience. Here was the opportunity, had he chosen to seize it, for a Pauline schism. Had the Convert's consciousness of the fact that his unseen Lord exercised His leadership in and through appointed representatives, after ages would have been able to tell how the brilliant neophyte had revolted, initiated a movement on his own account and, founding Pauline societies, proclaimed a Gospel differing from that of Peter. Nothing of the kind happened. Paul's powerful personality must not tempt us to abstract him from (lie Society with which be had beeu integrated. We can understand him and his work only as we see them as indices of Christ's leadership in the Church as a whole. If the active patience with which he awaited the Church's endorsement of his call is evidence of its reality, this explanation gives still greater weight to that evidence. Paul's amazing apostolic career bears witness as does nothing else to the reality of the resurrection and to the presence of One in the Church Who is both, King and Leader.