We begin our second book of the year with Paul's letter to the Romans. This letter is, in my opinion, the most important document in the New Testament (outside of the Gospel, of course). All of the rest of the New Testament letters were written to address specific issues or written about specific pastoral matters. Romans is essentially a letter of introduction from St. Paul to the Church at Rome. It is the only Letter Paul wrote to a church of which he was not the founder. Paul writes this letter to introduce himself and to explain what he believes is the essence of the Gospel.
Because of this unique situation, Romans is the only systematic treatment of the Christian Faith in the New Testament. The letter begins by explaining that all of humanity (Jews and Gentiles alike) have sinned and fallen short of God's glory. He goes on to show how the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ gives us forgiveness of sins and "peace with God." He proceeds to show how life in this new understanding is completely different from any life we may have had before. After explaining what he understands to be God's plan for his original chosen people, Paul concludes with some pastoral advice and encouragement.
Romans 1 is the beginning of Paul's explanation that even if we have never heard the Gospel we are dying in our separation from God. The presence and nature of God is clearly revealed all around us but we make choices that serve as evidence that we do not know God nor do we know his nature.