Recorded live in Ireland with Fr Jerome M.O' Connor (Two talk set)
As the Pauline Year progresses, Jerome Murphy-O’Connor OP discusses Paul’s role as a pastor to the early Christian communities he established, and looks at how he maintained his relationships with and support of these communities from a distance.
There can be no question in a brief article of a complete treatment of how Paul functioned as a pastor. It must suffice to draw attention to a number of aspects, which have particular importance in that they serve as challenging correctives to much of contemporary pastoral practice.
It took time for Paul to think of himself as a pastor. Originally he believed that he had done his duty by establishing churches and by staying with them for a year or so in order to initiate them into what it meant to live as Christians. Then he entrusted them to the Holy Spirit, and felt free to move on to new mission fields. This was the way he treated the churches of Galatia and Philippi. When he left there is no hint that he intended to return or even to maintain relations.
This attitude changed at Thessalonica. When Paul was forced to flee from the city, he knew that his converts there were being subject to persecution. On reaching safety in Athens he was desperate for information. For unexplained reasons he was not able to go back himself, but was able to send Timothy. The latter’s return with the good news of the community’s survival was the occasion of Paul’s first letter, which initiated a correspondence in which he dealt with a number of the Thessalonians’ pastoral problems. Paul had discovered the need for maintenance.
Paul’s letters do not display a systematic pastoral theology. They were designed to deal with specific problems that arose in individual communities. Beneath the particularities of the solutions, however, lie principles of perennial value.
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