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A Kind Spirit and a Gentle Heart
Paul was in a Roman prison when he wrote the letter to the Philippians. Let me say a few things about Roman prisons. First, Romans do not provide food, clothing, or medical supplies. You must get that from the outside. So Paul’s life is depending on the goodness of others. When the Philippians heard that Paul was in a Roman prison, they send him a gift package. While Paul is still in this prison, he sends them back a letter to acknowledge the gift. Another fact about Roman prisons is that one’s stay would only be short-term. Either the prisoner is released, or the prisoner is executed. In fact, Paul talks about the possibility of his imminent death in his letter. It is very likely that the Letter to the Philippians could have been one of Paul’s last acts on this earth. The last thing you need to know about Roman prisons is that they are filthy and full of diseases. They are depressing and the most joyless place on the face of the planet. That is why it is a real surprise to hear Paul talk so much about his great joy in this letter. In fact, he uses the word more in this letter than in any other letter. Paul is full of joy, and he also has a kind spirit, a gentle heart. This is not the usual Paul. In his other letters, Paul is belligerent. He is a fighting man and someone who insists on getting his way. He always sets his sights on a goal and pursues it. There may be a few dead bodies along the way, but he gets the job done. In his first letter, he called women “vessels.” Not very nice. He called the Galatians, “fools.” He got in the face of Peter and told him that he was wrong. Peter! The first pope, the great Apostle, and saint, my namesake. He scolded him in front of the community. Then he yelled at the Corinthians in both of his letters to them. But not in Letter of the Philippians; he has a gentle spirit. This brings up an important matter, so I want to write a few words on having a gentle spirit, a kind heart.
Why do we want a gentle spirit? Because we humans are fragile. We get hurt. When people ignore us and do not appreciate our gifts, we get hurt. When people humiliate us and embarrass us in front of others, we get hurt. When people bully us, put us down, and call us all kinds of names, we get hurt. But, when we have a gentle spirit, no one ever gets hurt. It is not difficult to acquire a kind spirit. I will tell you exactly how I maintain a gentle spirit and believe me, it works. Pull-ups. After I do pull-ups, I am very gentle and meek
As you know, I was never married. But if I ever got married, I would get on my knee and propose to my girl. This is my proposal. “If you marry me, I will never cause you to cry in sorrow, and I will not give the kids a father wound.” This is not very romantic, but it exactly what you need if you want a happy home. When you are with a family, no one should ever get hurt. When Paul was in prison, he had joy in the most deplorable situation. The reason why is because he had a family. A family of Christians who cared for one another, who made sacrifices for one another. Think about Paul’s message for a moment. No matter how bad things are, no matter what terrible situation we must face, we can always have joy because we are a part of a family. We belong to a family of Christians who acquire and maintain a gentle heart.Back to All Homilies