Tuesday, October 5, 2010


St Paul’s New Vision After Conversion and its Impact On the Universal Church
John Abraham Ayieko
St Thomas Aquinas National Seminary, Lang’ata.

The dramatic conversion of St. Paul on the road to Damascus was characterized by a humbling tinge of ‘providential paradoxes.’ Their result was a totally new vision for St. Paul. Needless to say, the history of the Christian faith would also take an entirely new direction. St. Paul’s new vision so possessed his entire personality that it infused in him new insights and interpenetrated his whole being with such zeal that merely human logic cannot explain. Just as his past life was a caricature of evil, his new life demonstrated the loftiness of human nobility. No wonder, his life remains a compendium of Christian values. Nothing he said or did after his conversion is taken for granted.
The converted Paul in his new vision became a child of the Universe. There before as a Zealous and professional Jew, he had been prejudiced, opinionated, and parochial. His, had been a rather small world that had no room for anything outside Judaism. And yet, thanks to his new broad and all-encompassing vision, the mosaic of cultures across the world ceased to be a threat to the gospel message. They have instead served to enrich its authenticity and inexhaustible substance. St. Paul is a classic example of one who had to do with a hard blow to see sense. We have our own occasional blows too, if only we could reflect.

The Man, Paul: An Introduction
aul of Tarsus, as we will sometimes refer to him, was, like many other visionaries peculiarly conspicuous even before his unique conversion. As a young fanatical Jew to begin with, Paul forfeited his comfort in order to help mete out ‘some discipline’ on those he believed had been deceived by a little known self-proclaimed messiah from Nazareth. Paul or Saul as the Jews knew him would never settle for lukewarm performance in whatever he set out to do. And yet again, he would rather die than live without a good reason; without some worthy cause, or without some deep conviction. Not Paul.
Born between 7th and 10th AD to a Jewish merchant who was living in Tarsus as a Jew of the Dispersion,[1] Paul probably spent his youth at Tarsus where his father was “engaged in weaving of cloth for tent, carpet and shoes from goats’ hair.”[2] He would later take after his father as a tent maker.[3] Even though he is believed to have been a contemporary of Jesus, Paul steers clear of any allusion to the possibility of his meeting with Jesus of Nazareth. He could not however have failed to hear about Jesus, having himself been an active Jew. He was a member of an extreme ultra-pious group[4] with very little if any disposition at all to see the promised messiah in the Carpenter's son as Jesus was known.[5]
Like his Jewish colleagues, he was blind. Paul’s usual unease with merely average existence led him to become more than just a young Jew of strict upbringing; he also became a Pharisee[6]. Straying an inch from the Torah was unthinkable for the young Paul. Had he not learnt at the feet of Gamaliel himself, the best teacher of his time?[7] Had he not been circumcised on the eighth day like any other Jew worth the name? Who would have the erudition to judge him when for the love of Yahweh he took upon himself the task of bringing to order those who had been hoodwinked into believing the wild claims that the followers of Jesus Christ were touting?
“It was on some such disciplinary mission, shortly after Stephen's death that Paul departed, perhaps from Tarsus or Antioch, for Damascus.”[8] But, curiously, Paul did not reach Damascus as a pious, self-righteous ‘blind’ Pharisee; not at all. He was led to Damascus a totally new man, a visionary. On his way to Damascus, he had met Christ who changed his life, turned his world upside down and handed him a vision statement. It is this vision, and its impact on the Universal Church that we set out to examine in this paper.
In the first part of this paper, we take a rather fleeting glance at the zealous Jew Saul, before he met Christ. In the second part, we examine his visionary disposition, the attendant qualities and gifts he displays in his new nature and the direct impact they cause him to occasion on the Universal Church. The third and final part is more of the fitting reaction that this Jubilee should stir in each one of us.
Pauline Jubilee as a Celebration of St. Paul’s Conversion and Vision
On this year’s occasion when the Church marks the bi-millennial celebration of the birth of St. Paul, it is a truism to observe that the real cause for joy besides the fact that St. Paul was born into our world is that he was also converted. Paul was inarguably a strong character, but that is not why we meet him. He persecuted the followers of Christ, again, that is only part of why we meet him. Rather we meet Paul because he met Christ and surrendered himself to him as an instrument for the second phase of Christ’s ministry, namely, the Evangelization of the Gentiles. In this Pauline Jubilee the Church celebrates the life of an Apostle, a Missionary, a Mystic and a Martyr of Faith.
It is not easy; perhaps, even possible to refute the claim that Paul’s special mission was in God’s plan of salvation from the outset. Paul himself avers that God set him apart for his unique task before he was born.[9] Even when Jesus assured his followers that the gospel would first be preached to all nations before the Parousia,[10] he certainly knew that his own contemporary, the Jewish Saul was already jogging to pick the baton with no inkling whatsoever of what awaited him. Paul’s rigorous training in the law, his thorough knowledge of the scripture, his fluency in both Hebrew and Greek, his three citizenships as well as his exceptional courage would prove to be indispensable credentials for the task that lay ahead of him. Paul’s conversion was much more than just a change of heart. It was a fusion of hearts. Upon his conversion, Paul became another Christ (since he was a priest too).[11] From then on, his only true possessions were his weaknesses, about which he was crudely honest. In the converted Paul, the spirit of truth found a mouthpiece to teach many more things Jesus had promised had yet to be known.[12] No wonder, Paul is not afraid to refer to his teachings as his Gospel; for he no longer lived. It was Christ who lived, and taught, and preached, and healed and suffered in him.
A more critical consideration of Paul’s experience would lead us to assert without hesitation that the converted Paul did not really have any vision. He instead owned the vision of Christ which authentically then became his own. How could he still claim a vision when he had ceased to live?[13]
A celebration of the Jubilee of St. Paul is thus more than anything else a celebration of the vision he embraced after his conversion. We hope that this Pauline Jubilee will facilitate the infusion, in more people, of the desire to be animated by the vision St. Paul lived and died for.
      I.            PAUL: THE ZEALOUS JEW
St. Paul was born in a family atmosphere that was deeply religious. His parents, themselves pious Pharisees desired that their young son gets the best available Jewish training. They therefore sent him to Jerusalem, at the feet of Gamaliel”.[14] Fanaticism was not uncommon among the Jews of Dispersion because they lived side by side with gentiles. Furthermore, the yearning for Jewish identity in the Dispersion often graduated into Pharisaic zeal. The family of Paul was no exception. It was in this kind of environment that the “...young Paul plunged himself whole-heartedly to his Pharisaic training and soon became respected and noted as a prominent leader and teacher.”[15] He does not hesitate to present his Jewish pedigree on any slight provocation. “Circumcised on the eighth day, of the race of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrew parentage, in observance of the law a Pharisee.”[16] Among his credentials, Paul is not afraid to reiterate what catapulted him into instant renown among the followers of Christ; “...in zeal I persecuted the church, in righteousness based on the law, I was blameless...”[17] But this was before he came face to face with righteousness itself.
The Metanoic event on the road to Damascus
As was customary to him, Paul had probably one early morning set out for Damascus, “an important free Greek city which was loosely attached, like Tarsus, to the Roman province of Syria Cilicia, and contained a Jewish community of appreciable size.”[18] Little did he know that he would indeed enter the gates of Damascus, but no longer as a fanatical self-righteous Jew. He would instead be led through the City-gates by the very people he was going to bring to order. He would even later need their protection! The story of his conversion, surely one of the most captivating in the New Testament, must be read elsewhere; what captures our interest however, is the instant humility that enables Paul to inquire about the course of action he needs to take. “What shall I do sir?”[19] This question did not only mark a unique reversal in the life of Paul. His world had been turned upside down. Knowing the righteous blameless Jew he had been, the mere fact that this question could escape his being indicated a complete metanoia. Contrary to the psalmist’s lament that the Lord hid his face and he was thrown into confusion,[20] Paul is thrown into confusion when the Lord shows his face, an indication that he had been serving an alien god. Paul loses his sight and has to be guided. He enters into a three days and three night’s limbo, neither eating nor drinking until Ananias appears to baptise and lay his hands on him. He then recovers his sight and receives the Holy Spirit. The task that awaited him is also pronounced to him.[21]
A brief examination of the events that surrounded Paul’s conversion drama is important if we are to appreciate not only their providential bend, but also to meet Paul, the new man,[22] and his New Vision.

Things like scales fell from his eyes
And he regained his sight
(Acts 9:18)
The similitude employed by Luke in alluding to “things like scales” rather than scales is pointing. More importantly, it offers a spacious room for postulation. Paul was more than just a fanatical Jew. He was also a lawyer. His vast knowledge and convictions about the Jewish faith both controlled his life and informed his ‘old vision’. The result was a thick layer of interlocking scales. These ‘scale-like’ layers effectively came between him and Jesus while he lived. It took the power of the Holy Spirit to relieve Paul of the opaque layer of the law, prejudice, self righteousness and all the other inhibitions without which he could for once see Jesus Christ more clearly. By accepting baptism, Paul confirmed his sojourn with Christ who endured three dark nights in the ‘womb’ of the earth. He also joined the ranks of Jonah whose sign it was, that Christ had promised hard-hearted Pharisees like himself.[23] By the power of the Holy Spirit, he died to sin and began a new life for God in Christ Jesus”.[24]
Never again would Paul have doubted the identity of Christ after the exacting experience in the school of Jonah. Paul in the ‘youth’ of his Pharisaic worldview instantly grew to mature Christian old age, and was now being led to a place he would rather not go.[25] His conversion package was self-contained, complete with a comprehensive vision and in-built martyrdom; a martyrdom that would at once become his way of life as well as his exit from terrestrial life. He had been taught the Jewish faith by a human teacher, he would now be taught the Christian faith by God Himself.[26] As he left Judas’ house, Paul was a totally different man, a man in whose new personality the crucial transition from Judaism to Christianity would be concretised.

The strong and decisive man that he was, it did not take long before Paul “began at once to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues.”[27] Paul, now humbled by the radiance of truth did not hesitate to proclaim the very message he had passionately endeavoured to thwart. Paul’s tone had changed. He stood from the dust of the road to Damascus a man full of compassion and unfeigned love for humanity. He who before conversion proudly minded the clothes of those who stoned Stephen,[28] now tried to convince his former accomplices that they had been wrong. A man who had persecuted the followers of Christ now put his own life on the line for the sake of Christ. Paul now so urgently wanted to proclaim the Good News he had received, that it took the Lord‘s own intervention to persuade him to leave Jerusalem.[29] Paul thought, and rightly so, that, having been a Jew of no mean repute in Jerusalem, his testimony would easily be acceptable. And yet it was unthinkable for the Jews that Paul, one of the finest Jewish minds could dare speak in favour of a man they had not long ago crucified for blasphemy. Even more insulting was Paul’s claim that he had indeed met the Risen Lord. The Jewish Paul had been anything but human. His disposition in its entirety was opposed to life. He was ferocious, and as Luke describes him, had been “...breathing murderous threats against the disciples of the Lord”.[30] Paul “the new man” was fully human. In fact, he now demonstrated the loftiness of human ideals at the service of God. A critical consideration of some five steps towards a full human life[31] reveals that Paul indeed acquired a new personality. The five steps proposed by John Powell in his book “Fully Human, Fully Alive” are;
1.      To accept oneself                          4.  To believe
2.      To be oneself                                 5.  To belong
3.      To forget oneself in loving
Paul’s Radical Self-Acceptance
We find in Paul a man who is honest to the marrow. In his crude sense of openness, he freely talks about himself and expresses his opinion about others, such as Alexander the Coppersmith.[32] To the surprise of his hearers, he recounts without scruple his hideous past and confirms his role in the murder of Stephen.[33] This he does, not for the sheer joy talking about it. He knew that, that past was part of what had shaped his person.
Paul was interestingly the only one who understood, and thus could accept himself. For, held with suspicion among ‘The Way’, and sought by the Jews, he had no one else to accept him. It is not easy to imagine what his mission would have turned out to be if he would have failed to accept himself.
Paul as Authentic and Unpretentious
Even before encountering Christ, we see in Paul a man who was really himself. But he even became more authentic after being created ‘anew’ and shedding the ‘old man’.[34] Paul owed no one apology for his new convictions. Instead, he felt such a strong attraction to the person of Jesus Christ that he experienced deep joy in suffering in his name.[35] He did not make any claims beyond him, and he did not impose any opinion on his hearers in the name of Christ. He endeavoured to clearly draw a dividing line between the teachings he received from Christ and his private sentiments.[36]

“He Must Increase, I Must Decrease” (John 3:30): Self-Forgetfulness in Love
The words of John the Baptist apply accurately to Paul’s self-forgetfulness in service of God and neighbour. Paul so plunged in the task of preaching his Master for the benefit of his neighbour that he completely neglected his own comfort. He traversed expansive lands on foot, always seeking to bring the Good News of salvation to one more person. For the sake of Christ, he was severely beaten and repeatedly imprisoned. But the extent of sufferings he had to undergo[37] did not succeed in taming his zeal. Nothing, he asserted, could separate him from the love of Christ.[38] Paul also loved his converts and made great sacrifices for them. He constantly remained in touch with them and occasionally reminded them of his love for them.[39]
A Man of Conviction, Belief and Clarity
Paul, even before conversion seems to have been a man who could never settle for an ‘unreflected life in an unexamined world.’[40] He insisted on having some meaning for which to live. He would have no peace until he passionately believed in someone, or even something; some cause worth living and if necessary, dying for. He himself asserted; “I believed, therefore I spoke”.[41] Paul never acted in doubt. The Lord apparently approved of this character of Paul, especially when Ananias reports to him saying; “...for you will be his witness before all to what you have seen and heard.”[42]

Paul's Sense of Belonging
Paul had no doubt that Christ himself had invited him into the college of the Apostles.[43] He knew he belonged to the pure race of Israel; in fact a Benjaminite.[44] He also admirably employed his “remarkable multiple qualification of belonging to three different worlds, Jewish, Greek and Roman.”[45] But even more than the above qualities, St. Paul was configured to the nature of Christ himself. In a strange way, he became not just another Christ, but the very Christ, and him crucified.[46] In fidelity to this identity he became the new object of all sorts of hateful feelings initially directed to Christ Jesus.[47]
Through his own past and ongoing experiences, Paul grew in the knowledge and conviction that the Risen Christ had possessed his being and was working in him. He also knew that the mission he had inherited was penetratingly Paschal in nature – defined solely by the Passion Death and Resurrection of Christ.
For the ‘new man’ that Paul became therefore, suffering was not only an acid test for belonging, but also an indispensable ingredient of following Christ; the genuine narrow road.[48] His entire life thus became martyrdom. His belonging to Christ transcended the temporal provisions of time and space, for whether alive or dead, he belonged to Christ.[49] For him death had lost its sting.[50] In his new personality, Paul gained in the freedom of the children of God, a freedom that enabled him become “...all things to all people”.[51] Having met the truth, he was set free and thus belonged without limit.

St. Paul's Vision
A retrospective reflection on the life of Paul even before conversion reveals that he had been undergoing some kind of formation and preparation for a unique responsibility. And now, having been configured into the person of Christ, Paul did not have to invent another vision.[52] He simply received and embraced the vision of the God of “our ancestors.” [53]
After the humbling experience of his conversion, Paul received the Holy Spirit as he regained his sight. When Ananias pronounced the words “Saul, my brother, regain your sight,[54] Paul’s restored physical vision was only an exteriorization of an even more significant event; the restoration of his spiritual vision. From then on, Paul seems to have had a bigger as well as a clearer vision than any of his collaborators could envisage. Only Paul apparently had the complete idea, however hazy, of what Christianity was to be like in the world. The single desire that possessed and catapulted him into unimaginable missionary feats was that the entire human race would get to know and embrace the Risen Christ and his message of salvation. Both Christ and his salvific vision for humanity became incarnated in Paul. The effect of this love, indeed its peak, was an intimate union, ecstasy and rapture in the beloved.[55]In him, Jesus effectively began the second phase of his programme of redemption: evangelisation of the Gentiles. How then did this vision serve the cause of the Universal Church? This is our next investigation.

The need to sever the umbilical chord that joined the “infant Christianity” with Judaism her worthy mother was clearly urgent after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This delicate surgery needed the ‘midwifery’ of a faultless, pious and knowledgeable Jew, in fact someone of Paul's stature. The ‘midwife’ also needed to be a passionate believer in the Risen Christ, preferably someone with Christ’s direct mandate and instructions – again, Paul was there.
With courage that defies all human explanation, Paul now visited the same synagogues where he had flushed out Christ’s followers to preach the very Christ to them. Paul’s past became a thunderous testimony to his hearers, some of who dismissed him as mad.[56] Over two thousand years on, the miraculous conversion of St. Paul remains a source of powerful inspiration for the Church of Christ as well as a reason for the conversion of the sons and daughters of this world who have lost all hope of deserving God’s mercy.
Due to St. Paul’s instrumentality, the Church of Christ curved its niche as the awaited kingdom of God. Furthermore, the blue-print of the form she would take was also put in place. In order to achieve this, St. Paul had to become a number of things. We now examine a few that had direct influence in bequeathing to us the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, as we have it today.
St. Paul as a Child of the Universe
Paul was born and brought-up in a worldview that dichotomised the human race into two categories; Jews and gentiles. Fanatical Jews, including Paul had an unkind prejudicial and arrogant version, “...children of the house and dogs.”[57] When Paul asked Jesus on the road to Damascus, “who are you Lord?”, [58] and when he received the response, “I am Jesus the Nazarene whom you are persecuting,”[59]Paul knew from God himself that we all belong to one human family. His sense of belonging expanded beyond his three-fold citizenships. He became a child of the universe. He would later write to the Galatians, “as proof that you are children, God sent the spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying out “Abba, Father![60]
Paul, a Pioneer of Inculturation
 Paul’s daring insights are clear proof that his gaze into the future of the Christian faith had been cast into yonder horizons; far beyond the grasp of mere human imagination. Since the world was no more than a home, and the human race a family, Paul came into the realization that somehow, everyone was already worshipping God, even if they did not know it. Paul believed that there were no such things as base or superior cultures. Instead, for him, all cultures were unique and even intrinsically salvific in their own ways. His own life experience had taught him that this world is but one large classroom in which God himself provides crucial instructions to his own. In his new vision, the vision of Christ, culture was a meeting-point between God and his people. That is why he declares to Athenians when he finds an altar dedicated to the ‘Unknown God’, “...What therefore you unknowingly worship I proclaim to you.”[61] Saliently enshrined within the fabric of every culture are statements about the existence of a God who, not only creates and sustains, but also immensely loves his creation. A God no human image can – even poorly – capture.
The quest for Inculturation of the Gospel of Christ found ready support within the vision that guided the life of St. Paul. In the spirit of St Paul whose vision he shared, Pope John Paul II gladly initiated, supported and passionately commissioned the Church in Africa to find, love and praise God within the noble universal values present within their various cultures. And today, partly because of Inculturation, the Gentile Africa is heaving with rich faith.

Paul; Evangelist par excellence
Paul understood that the task of preaching Christ was far bigger than him. Coming into the scene only after the resurrection of Christ, Paul became the evangelist par excellence. Somewhere in his mind, he saw the triumph of the Church which he described as a Mystical body.[62]
The energy, skill and commitment Paul put in evangelization generated the sufficient momentum the Church needed to take-off from the run-way of the early Church. The Universal Church, and indeed the Christian faith thus stand on the foundation laid by Paul. Building on the rock which Jesus the Chief Architect had identified certainly needed a skilled mason. That mason was Paul of Tarsus!
St. Paul as a Letter of Christ
For Paul, witnessing Christ which was his special mandate did not necessarily require the noise of words. By emptying himself to Christ, Paul became a living testimony to Christian living. His life became a letter.[63] All his actions became a statement of faith and encouragement to his converts and even to us in our own age. Even in circumstances when Paul does not make any statement, God uses his experience to instruct us. When he forgets his cloak, we are reminded of evangelical poverty, and when he survives a shipwreck only to be bitten by a snake at the shore, we learn to trust in God.[64]
The vision of Christ that he had embraced was so engrossing that he ceased to have a private life. Paul's entire existence became a providential pedagogy. He was a lighted lamp on a lamp stand for universal edification.[65]

Paul, a Lover of the Church
There are only two possible explanations for Paul's indomitable spirit and larger than life zeal: his love for God and his passion for humanity through the Church. St. Paul never counted his loses as long as the issue at stake was the Gospel of Christ. His love for Christ and his church was so intense that he seemed to be transformed into Christ.[66] Paul suffered countless assaults for the sake of Christ. More than once, he was beaten and left for dead. But his strong will always enabled him to pick up himself from the heap of stones, shake up his battered body and move on.[67]
Even when he suffered so much, Paul who had taken after his Master never threatened.[68] He did not doubt God’s seriousness, much less, God's love for him who was actually not labouring for his own satisfaction. He treasured the marks he had received on his body for the sake of Christ. He saw them as a privilege and freely recounted his woes.[69] His unbreakable spirit and love for the Church flagged-off an unstoppable onward Christian march to the nations.
The Visionary Paul as an Icon of Theological Interdisciplinarity
The person of Paul, his life and teachings became some sort of an epicentre from which many doctrines of the Church would credibly vibrate. His vision, the vision of his master, was so inexhaustible that it factored within it all the teachings the Church has systematised and that may in time become clearer as God’s revelation continues unfolding.
To begin with, his conversion is characterised by a unique Trinitarian synergy. In his false belief that he was serving the God of his ancestors, he met His Son, and it took the Holy Spirit through baptism and the laying on of hands by Ananias to re-make his person as God’s witness to the Gentiles.[70] This indelible seal of the Trinity in St. Paul's life is evident in his letters. More than anyone else, St. Paul remains the best testimony to the dangers of any exclusivist theology that emphasizes on one person of the Trinity to the entire exclusion (even if it is perfect ignorance) of the others.
St. Paul also laid foundations for the Church’s teaching on Parousia and on Eschatology.[71] His strong and passionate sense of the Church as Mystical Body of Christ has in time attracted ever more substantive imageries. Even such Mariological renderings of Mary as the Mother of the Church revolve around St. Paul’s description of the Church as the Mystical body of Christ.[72]
At once a lawyer, a moral theologian, an ecclesiologist, a dogmatist as well as the pioneer missiologian, Paul was an interdisciplinary man. His presence in nearly all theological disciplines remains both a challenge and a mystery. For a man whose only human teacher was Gamaliel, a Pharisee, there can only be one explanation to Paul’s deep and incisive knowledge; pure revelation. And since every truth about Christ that Paul knew was a revelation[73] we may safely add to the list of his titles, a channel of God’s Revelation.
Pauline Jubilee: a Call to Renewed Vision
 Any objective consideration of the life of St. Paul reveals one indisputable fact; namely that it was a life of constant and unrelenting struggle, generously punctuated by physical pain, suffering, rejection and much misunderstanding. It was clearly not easy. Paul himself, in one of his most celebrated phrases calls it a race. “I have finished the race...” he tells Timothy.[74] But there is something else he says about athletics: “an athlete cannot receive the winner’s crown except by competing according to the rules.”[75]
The colossal achievement the Universal Church registered in evangelization through the instrumentality of St. Paul within the very short period of his ministry ought to leave many of us with our heads bowed in shame. We may never be able to grasp the full thrust of the daring Paul attempting to preach Christ in the Jewish synagogues, but at least, when we come to terms with the reality that, over two thousand years after his death, St. Paul's life and teaching still changes lives; still converts souls; still pokes consciences, and yes, still continues unfolding with rich meaning, we suddenly wake up to the reality that we are yet to roll-up our spiritual sleeves for some real task. This Pauline Jubilee is an occasion to prayerfully put on our thinking caps and engage our faith in our way of life.
That the mustard-seed sized tiny Church through which St. Paul was converted has now become a huge tree on which birds of the air can rest[76] is not reason enough to rest on our laurels or accept to be numbed into lethargy. The Universal Church is certainly from far – very far in fact, but she has an even longer way to go. It is only when we have been shaken by the ‘insistent blows’ of this reality that we will wake up from our stupor of convenience and comfort, and hear the endless questions our Church is addressing to us. How can we become like St. Paul in some way, even if only one way? How can we share in his vision? How can we acquire his zeal for preaching? How can we emulate his passion for humanity? How can we adopt his strong, resistant will and unyielding energy? Can we love the Church as he did? Can we embrace his fidelity to Christ, particularly in the face of so much pain and suffering? How can we inherit his deep faith and trust in God?
For St. Paul, preaching the crucified saviour outside the narrow road of suffering was unusual. Even when in chains, he knew that the word of God could not be chained.[77] He gives a rather unsettling assurance to Timothy; “...in fact, all who want to live religiously in Christ Jesus will be persecuted”.[78] In other words, Paul remains unambiguous and unequivocal that no vision really serves the cause of salvation which does not embrace persecution. The fact that Paul urged his converts to imitate his “...way of life, purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions and sufferings”[79] is quite telling.
It is not within the intention of this paper to cast aspersions on our moral probity, much less to test our commitment to our Mother Church. Be that as it may, the need to redefine, or at least renew our vision, both as individuals and as a family of believers cannot be gainsaid. If only we would adopt St. Paul’s evangelical zeal, the world, in Christ’s own words would be on fire already.[80] A worrying winter continues setting on our faith. The love of our generation towards God continues growing cold. Let us pray that St. Paul the Apostle, Martyr and Missionary of Faith, may hasten with the cloak of faith, and that he may “Try to get here before winter!”[81]
St. Paul has over the years perhaps attracted more scholarly attention than the rest of the apostles combined. This is partly because of the manner of his calling, his unique instrumentality in preaching Christ outside Palestine, and his simply presented, yet deeply theological exposition. However, he is mostly remembered for the monumental missionary success he achieved under very difficult circumstances. Paul only knew pain, sufferings, persecutions, misunderstandings, rejections and a host of other unpleasant experiences while he lived.
In both speech and silence, St. Paul’s life is encyclopaedic and soundly pedagogical. It is a testimony to the wisdom attainable only through the school of suffering. Perhaps, St John Chrysostom’s frequent counsel about St Paul should serve as a fitting conclusion to this reflection; ‘St Paul had the same nature as we have, the same body, the same soul; therefore that which he did, we also can do, by the grace of Christ, which God as he granted it to Paul, also grants to each of the faithful who asks it of him, and who endeavours to conform faithfully to it.’[82]

Cited Works
Grant, Michael, St. Paul, New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1976.
Grassi, Joseph, A., The Secret of Paul the Apostle, New York: Orbis books, 1978.
Lapide, Cornelius, A., The Personality of St Paul, Nairobi; Paulines Publications Africa, 2008.
Powell, John, Fully Human, Fully Alive, Texas: Argus Communications, 1976.
The African Bible, Nairobi: Paulines Publications Africa, 1999.

[1] Michael Grant, St. Paul (New York: Charles Scribners’ Sons, 1976), 13.
[2] Ibid., 13.
[3] Acts 18:3
[4] Grant, St. Paul, 14.
[5] Matt 13:55
[6] Phil 3:5
[7] Acts 22:3
[8] Grant, St. Paul, 14.
[9] Gal 1:15
[10] Matt 24:14
[11] Rom 15:16
[12] John 16:13
[13] Gal 2:20
[14] Joseph Grassi A., The Secret of Paul the Apostle, (New York: Orbis Books, 1978), 4. See Acts 22:3
[15] Ibid., 10.
[16] Phil 3:5
[17] Phil 3:6
[18] Michael Grant, St. Paul, 14.
[19] Acts 22:10
[20] Ps. 30:8
[21] Acts 9:17
[22] Col 3:9; Eph 4:22
[23] Luke 11:29
[24] Rom 6:11
[25] John 21:18
[26] Gal 1:15-24
[27] Acts 9:20
[28] Acts 22:20
[29] Acts 22:18
[30] Acts 9:1
[31] John Powell, Fully Human Fully Alive, (Texas: Argus Communications, 1976), 23.
[32]  2 Tim 4:14
[33] Gal 1:13; Acts 22:20
[34] Eph 4:22; Col 3:9
[35] Col 1:24
[36] 1Cor 9:8; 1Cor 7:25
[37] 2Cor 11:21-27
[38] Rom 8:35
[39] 1Cor 16:24
[40] Powell, Fully Human Fully Alive, 21.
[41] 2 Cor 4:13
[42] Acts 22:15
[43] 1Cor 1:1
[44] Rom 11:1
[45] Michael Grant, St. Paul, 14.
[46] Gal 2:19
[47] 1Cor 11:25; Acts 14:19
[48] Matt 7:14
[49] Rom 14;7-8; See also Phil 1:20
[50] 1 Cor 15:55
[51] 1Cor 9:22
[52] Without surrendering to the vision of Christ, we easily find ourselves striving towards our own human visions which often leave us frustrated and unfulfilled. A vision that belongs to someone greater than us is one we may never easily abandon. Paul himself says that preaching is an obligation imposed on him. See I Cor 9:16.
[53] Acts 22:15
[54] Acts 22:13
[55] Cornelius A. Lapide, The Personality of St Paul (Nairobi: Paulines Publications Africa, 2008),33
[56] Acts 26:24
[57] Matt 15:26
[58] Acts 22:8
[59] Acts 22:8
[60] Gal 4:6
[61] Acts 17:23
[62] 1Cor 12:27
[63] 2 Cor 10:11
[64] 2 Tim 4:21; Acts 27:39-41; 28:3.
[65] Luke 8:16
[66] Lapide, The Personality of St Paul, 33
[67] Acts 14:19
[68] 1Peter 2:23
[69] 2Cor 11:21-27
[70] Acts 22:12-15
[71] 1Thess 4:13-18
[72] Rom 12:5
[73] Gal 1:11
[74] 2Tim 4:7
[75] 2Tim 2:5
[76] Matt 13:32
[77] 2Tim 2:9
[78] 2Tim 3:12
[79] 2Tim 3:10
[80] Luke 12:49
[81] 2 Tim 4:21
[82] Cornelius A. Lapide, The Personality of St Paul (Nairobi: Paulines Publications Africa, 2008),9

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