Our First Reading, from Chapter Two of Paul’s Letter to the Galatians opens with Paul saying, “Then, after fourteen years I again went up to Jerusalem.”
Saul’s conversion on the road to Damascus seems to have occurred in the year 33, so, fourteen years after that would have been the year 47.
The scholars see those fourteen years spent like this. After his conversion, Paul spent the three years from 33 to 36 in solitude with Jesus in the desert. Then, he went up to Jerusalem to confer with the Apostles, who soon put him on a boat taking him to his hometown of Tarsus. After he had spent four years in solitude there, in the year 40 Barnabas came for him to help the ministry to the Gentiles, and they were occupied with that from the year 40 to 47 when today's reading opened..
I want to call your attention to the total of seven years Paul spent in solitude with the Lord.
We all like Shakespeare’s phrase “The sessions of sweet silent thought.” Although Paul in his active years did miracles and converted people speaking many tongues, perhaps he accomplished most in those sessions of sweet silent thought. Paul gave us our most beautiful expressions of Christianity.
“If I speak with the tongues of angels and men but do not have love I am a resounding gong, a tinkling cymbal.”
“At present we see indistinctly, as in a m mirror, but then face to face.”
“When this which is corruptible clothes itself in incorruptibility, and this which is mortal clothes itself in immortality then the word that is written shall come about: Death is swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”
Phrasing like that is like fine wine. It is only brought about by aging in silent contemplation.
We should all spend more time in sessions of sweet silent thought.
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