The word for today is “mutual.” Before the Covid-19 pandemic, many of us had a casual attitude toward attending worship with others. But now that the Lord has fulfilled our longing to gather together with others in worship and fellowship, we have a deeper appreciation of the blessing of sharing together in the Holy Communion of the Church.
In today’s s reading Romans 1:7-12, we find that Paul expresses his eager hope to meet in person with the believers in Rome. We learn from him as we ave learned from our own experience that mutual encouragement is one of the most precious blessings of joining with others in worship, study, and fellowship.
Today’s passage takes us back to the beginning of the Epistle to the Romans. To begin his letter, St. Paul introduces himself as a servant of Christ and an Apostle. Then he addresses the faithful in Rome with the most cordial greeting, “Grace and Peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 1:1). He then writes that he thanks God that their faith is known throughout the world. And he goes on to say that he constantly prays for them.
Paul’s Desire to Meet the Romans in Person
But then he comes to the point. It is his earnest desire to visit them. From this introduction to his letter, we find that St Paul has never visited Rome, and the faithful in Rome do not seem to know much about him. But St. Paul wants to preach the Gospel to them and so produce the fruit of the proclamation of Christ in the capital city of the Empire.
St. Paul writes that the purpose of his visit is “that I may be encouraged together with you by the mutual faith of both you and me” (Romans 1:12). Note that the faith of both Paul and the Romans is mutual. It is a shared faith that already binds them together as one in Christ. St. Paul affirms this when he says that he remembers them constantly in his prayers.
St. Paul yearns to see them in person not so that they can create this unity in Christ but that they can realize it. We have experienced how much we need the physical presence of one another. But, again, apart from each other we are still one in Christ. But when we meet together in person, the faith that we share is encouraged and built up.
The Lord promises, “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them (OSB Matthew 18:20). Didn’t the Lord promise to be with us to the close of the age? Where can we go that He is not with us? So why does He say that when believers gather, He is in their midst?
Besides that He says, “Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven” (OSB Matthew 18:19). Doesn’t He promise that God will answer our prayers? Why then does He say if two agree concerning your petition, my Father will grant your request.
The answer to the two questions is the same. When believers meet together and their spirits are united in Christ, there is a mutual sharing of the Holy Spirit. And the “energies” of the Spirit are multiplied in the mutual interaction between those gathered.
Thus, the Risen Christ appeared to the disciples when they were gathered together. And the Holy Spirit was given when “all the believers were gathered together in one place” (OSB Acts 2:1).
Therefore, if we neglect to assemble together, we lose that multiplier effect. We deprive others as well as ourselves of the encouragement in the Spirit that our fellowship gives (Hebrews 10:25).