Cloud of Witnesses

What I have learned from St. Paul

Monday was the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, marking the end of the Jubilee Year of St. Paul. It’s kind of sad because i don’t feel that i made the best use of this year… the good thing is that I want to try to imitate St. Paul even more than before. And that was the goal of the Year of St. Paul.

Sts. Peter and Paul—a simple fisherman and a persecutor of the Church. Both men were the most unlikeliest candidates to accomplish what they did. St. Peter denied Jesus three times and St. Paul persecuted Jesus. And the first ended up as the first pope and the latter as the great apostle to the Gentiles. They laid down the foundations of the Church established by Jesus Christ himself. It is fitting that God would chose the “unfit” and make them instruments of his power and glory. There is hope for all of us!

It seems to me that St. Peter and St. Paul had naturally rich soil to build upon… particularly St. Paul. St. Paul was zealous, educated in the Law by the great and respected rabbi Gamaliel—so he had credibility in Judaism. In addition, he was a Roman citizen—he had a passport into the entire known world. As the principle goes, “grace builds on nature”.

The whole conversion experience of St. Paul, the account of how God chose him, is classic. Artists depict it. “Falling off your high horse” probably was coined from it even though Scripture doesn’t mention a horse. Everybody who undergoes a conversion to Christ can relate to St. Paul.

When he was converted it was total and complete. The basis for everything he ever taught can be pinpointed to his conversion. When he was on his way to take captive the followers of Christ in the city of Damascus, it was he who was taken captive by Christ. Jesus appeared to him and said: “Sha’ul, Sha’ul why do you persecute me?”1 He didn’t say “why do you persecute my followers?” but he said “why do you persecute me?”. Jesus identifies himself with his followers.

In baptism we enter into Christ2, we who received the Holy Spirit are all united in the one Spirit3, when we partake of the One Bread we are all united in the One Bread— we form One Body in Christ4. The Mystical body of Christ, Jesus is the head and we are the members5. The means, the mission, the purpose, everything—is Jesus.

St. Paul is one of my patron saints. Saint Therese had a great devotion to him that I think I picked up. I learned about suffering from St. Paul. God told Ananias that he would show him how much he had to suffer for his sake6. And St. Paul suffered a lot7. About his sufferings he said “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church”.8

To be continued…

1. Acts 9
2. Galatians 3:27
3. 1 Cor. 12
4. 1 Cor. 10:16-17
5. Eph. 5
6. Acts 9:15-16
8. Col. 1:24

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