I always was fascinated by the austere, vigorous and workaholic Paul the apostle. Who was this mysterious man ? What kind of an impact he left on the very people he persecuted and who was determined to eradicate Christianity ?
Saul (Paul ) was born in Tarsus , of Hebrew parents about the A.D. 5. ” I am a Jew from Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of no ordinary city”( Acts 21 :39). Paul ‘s ancestors somehow were granted Roman citizenship and Paul used this privilege to his advantage at least three times. We also know from the Acts of the Apostles, that he earned his keep by being a tentmaker. It is said that he had both names, Saul and Paul from birth and utilized them selectively in various cultural settings.
As a young man he went up to Jerusalem to study the law, and became versed in the law of the Torah. He soon became a Pharisee and a fanatical persecutor of Christianity , the new religion. We can say that he was a ‘terrorist’. He himself asked for permission to apprehend men, women and children of this new religion and bring them to trial and imprisonment. Saul only thought of violence and death for the disciples of the Lord. We also know that he was present at the stoning of the deacon Stephen. Later on In his letter to the Galatians , Paul writes,” You have heard of my previous way of life , when I belonged to the Jewish community ; I furiously persecuted the Church of God and tried to destroy it ” On his way to Damascus with this mission in mind, he was faced with the light of the Risen Christ.” Saul, Saul! why are you persecuting me ?” Paul said, “Who are you, Lord?” . ” I am Jesus whom you are persecuting “. Now get up and go into the city; there you will be told what you are to do.” (Acts 9).
It was an instant conversion, Paul from a lion became a lamb and began preaching Christianity .He was chosen to bring the gospel to the nations.” God called me out of his great love… to reveal in me his Son, to make him known to the pagan nations”. ( Gal.).
In Jerusalem many a time Paul found himself in a head on collision with the Pharisees and the Elders of the people. He also argued with Simon Peter::”I said to Cephas (Peter) publicly : If you who are Jewish agreed to live like the non-Jews, setting aside the jewish customs, why do you now compel the non-Jews to live like Jews ?”.( Gal. 2).
In Jerusalem , the opposition to Paul and to his preaching of the New Religion grew stronger. He was arrested , but he defended himself vigorously and here once again , Paul used his roman citizenship to his advantage. ” I am a roman citizen, I appeal to the Emperor “.he said to Governor Festus . Festus said to Paul, “You have appealed to the Emperor, so to the Emperor you will go”.(Acts 25.12)
In all 276 people including ST. Luke boarded a ship destined for Rome. There were soldiers, sailors and other prisoners. From Jerusalem, they sailed to Sidon, to Cyprus, to Pamphilia, to Alexandria , and to Crete. A violent storm changed the ship’s course . Paul assured the people on board that no one will perish, ” we will be driven ashore on some island”.
This tragic shipwreck brought the Apostle Paul to the Maltese Islands. Being Maltese myself , I here with pride quote the Acts of the Apostles.
” When we were safely ashore, we learned that the island was called Malta. The natives were very friendly to us. ……Publius, the chief of the island, welcomed us kindly and for three days we were his guests…..they gave us many gifts and when we sailed they put on board what we needed for the voyage. …After three months we sailed away….”(Acts 28)
This is how Christianity came to the Maltese islands and we have been Christians ever since. He is the patron saint of Malta where a large number of churches and chapels are dedicated to the apostle of the Gentiles, ST. Paul. His shipwreck is commemorated every year, on the 10 of February. It is a National holiday.
Paul eventually was jailed and martyred in Rome in A.D.65. A majestic church in Rome is dedicated to this great apostle of the nations. This basilica is known as ST. Paul Outside the Walls.
Prayer:::God our Father, you taught the gospel to all the world through the preaching of Paul your apostle. May we who celebrate his conversion to the faith follow him in bearing witness to your truth. Amen. (Bk. of Chris. Prayer).
God bless you and yours. ***************** Fr. David , O.P.
(This is awesome and funny.)
In December, 1992, a letter was submitted to Dear Abby, by the Rev.C.W Kirkpatrick of Union Church of Christ, Ludlow, Mass.
” Dear Abby, one of the toughest tasks a church faces is choosing a good minister….The board of a church rejected applicant after applicant. Finally, a board member stood up and read a letter purporting to be from another applicant.
” Gentlemen: understanding your pulpit is vacant, I should like to apply for the position. I have many qualifications. I’ve been a preacher with much success and also have had some success as a writer. Some say I am a good organizer. I Have been a leader in most places I have been. I am 50 yrs. of age. I have never preached in one place for more than three years. In some place , I have left town after my work caused riots and disturbances. I must admit I have been in jail three or four times, but not because of any real wrongdoing.
My health is not too good, though I still get a great deal done. I have not gotten along with religious leaders in town where I have preached. I am not too good at keeping records . I have been known to forget whom I baptized. However, if you can use me, I shall do my best for you”.
The board member looked over the committee, ” Well, what do you think ? Shall we call him ?”
The good church folks were aghast. Call an unhealthy, trouble-making, absentminded , ex-jailbird ? Was the board member crazy ? Who signed the application ? Who, has such colossal nerve ?.
The board member eyed them all keenly before he answered, ” It is signed, ‘The Apostle Paul “…..