The first reading tells how persecutions in Jerusalem led the disciples to settle a hundred miles north of there in Antioch, the former capitol of the Syrian Empire. It was there that the first followers of Christ came to be called “Christians.” When many Gentiles joined those Jewish Christians, the Apostles appointed a very kind man, Barnabas, to go lead them.
After Barnabas got to Antioch, and he had sized up the situation, it occurred to him that the perfect man to help him with the Gentile converts was St. Paul.
Now, Paul, or Saul, after his conversion on the road to Damascus, and after his going up to Jerusalem to check out his beliefs with the Apostles, had retired to Tarsus. It was a town in what today would be southeast Turkey. There his father was a maker of tents.
If you check out Chapter One of Paul’s Letter to the Galatians, you will read his account of his conversion, followed by his visit to Jerusalem, and next his retiring to Tarsus. Then, if you read on to verse one of Chapter Two of Paul’s Letter to the Galatians, you might be as surprised as I was when you read, “Then after fourteen years I again went up to Jerusalem with Barnabas.”
For fourteen years Paul had helped his father, while he silently went over and over his beliefs as a Christian.
With many people their favorite passage from Paul’s Letters is Chapter Thirteen of his First Letter to the Corinthians where he says, “If I speak with the tongues of angels and men, but do not have love, I am a resounding gong and a tinkling cymbal.” But there are dozens of other passages that we prize as highly.
If we marvel over Paul’s ability to come up with such perfect phrasing, it might help us to realize that his deep perceptions and his gorgeous wording were the result of his pondering over these holy matters for fourteen years.
The lesson there is that we must hold our tongues while we spend years and years asking for help in knowing the truth.
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