Sunday, 1 July 2007

Peter'n'Paul Pt III PAUL

Saul of Tarsus was a Pharisee who learned at the feet of Gamaliel one of the wisest and most respected men of his day. It was Gamaliel who counselled the Sanhedrin to a wait and see policy over the new Church (Acts 5:34-39). Saul was young and it would seem rather hot headed. Having seen the illegal mob stoning of Stephen the Deacon he set about a virulent persecution of the followers of the Way, not just in Jerusalem but across the Decopolis as well.

He was on his way to Damascus when the great conversion event took place. He was thrown from his horse and Christ spoke Why are you persecuting Me?”

Saul was made blind and had three days of darkness before the Lord sent Ananias to receive him into the Church and give him back his sight.

Paul as he was now named went out to the synagogues and instead of stirring up the hatred towards the Christians he began to preach the Good News. The leaders were not impressed and Paul had to escape by being let down in a basket from the city wall.

Remember that kiddie hymn?

Paul was let down in a basket

Over the city wall.

His life was in danger because he said

That God had raised Jesus from the dead

And made him the Lord of all, of all of all.

After three years Paul made it back to Jerusalem where he hoped to meet up with Peter and the other apostles, but they were hardly keen to meet him!

Joseph Barnabas acted as mediator and introduced Paul to Peter and to James, who was bishop of Jerusalem. There Paul stayed for fifteen days and then went about more work, bringing the message of the Gospel to the gentiles. It was Paul’s view that the gentiles did not need to follow the old mitzvah’s that brought about the Council of Jerusalem in which Peter vindicated this view.

Paul later caught Peter acting as though these same mitzvah’s still counted and told him off. Popes might be infallible, but they are not impeccable.

Paul travelled with Barnabas and established a good friendship with his early convert Timothy (who was circumcised before the Council of Jerusalem), but he did not get on so well with the young John Mark, who eventually ended up as Peter’s secretary and wrote a Gospel.

After travelling and writing and suffering for many years Paul ended up in prison for the last time. He was beheaded as befits a citizen of Rome, dying for the Christ he so loved.

Paul had understood the depth of Christ’s question to him that day on the way to Damascus. “Why are you persecuting ME?” Christ had asked and Paul saw that the Church he persecuted was Christ-His bride, His body and he taught that in his letter to the church at Ephesus.

His understanding was the beginning of the deep understanding of Christ’s presence in the Holy Eucharist; Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. He understood that we cannot receive such a gift unless in a state of grace lest we bring condemnation on ourselves.

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