The St. Paul I know...
As I go back my memory lane, the first time I ever heard of St. Paul was in my fifth std, when my friends and I had participated in a bible quiz competition in school. The quiz was different as we didn’t have to learn anything from the bible, my teacher would tell us a story and ask question from it. Sounds simple? yes. She told us the story of the conversion of St. Paul and the question she asked me was where was Saul heading to? pat came the answer from me “Damascus!”
Since then life has seen so many situations, happy ones, difficult ones, adventurous ones and challenging ones. However, the words of St. Paul to the various churches that were blooming at that time are both encouraging and apt to our daily life even though 2000 years have elapsed! The first time St. Paul’s words that touched me was when my best friend left the school and I was felling lonely and I thought my parents loved my younger sister more (you ask her she would say the same he..he..he..) At this juncture I had to attend my first retreat in school. In the retreat they spoke of God’s love and in particular St. Paul’s words to the Romans “Nothing can separate us from the love of our God” (Hardships or sword nor power…. can separate us from the love of our God. Rom 8:35-39) helped me to reconcile with the fact that my friend left and I accepted it with joy on finding out how much more my God loves me
From then on I was regularly attending the annual retreats at school, after 3 retreats I was a little disappointed with myself, as after the retreat I would slip into my old ways. This time it was the Vacation Bible School that came to my rescue, where we had an exercise in which we were to dress one of the group members with the armor of God. St. Paul is urging the people to clad themselves with the armor of God to escape the Devils trick! (Be strong in the Lord….. Eph 6: 10-17) Also my catechism teacher at school taught us about the Holy Spirit who helps us to pray to God when we are weak (For we do not know how we ought to pray… Rom 8: 26) both these words taught me to live (though not always) without falling into my old ways.
I am sure most of us would have heard of the reading with church as one body and made up of many members/parts in the mass, though I’ve heard it several times, it never had any significant effect on me, or I didn’t understand it.
But once while I was coming back from college by bike, I had a small accident, when an auto brushed past the sides of my right palm and small finger and it was scratched and started swelling. I didn’t think it was a big deal and went home, only when I went to college the next day I realized I could not write! couldn’t take class notes, couldn’t submit records and all this for one week. Then these words of St. Paul to the Corinthians made sense to me. (If one part suffers, all other parts suffer with it, if one part is praised, all other parts share its happiness. 1 Cor 12:12-31) This insignificant side of my palm, taught me a lesson that everyone of His creation are equally important and has a part to play in His master plan, however, big or small they may be and that all of us are one in Christ.
Apart from these, when I was young, whenever my sister or I refused to help my mum in household chores or fussed over it, she would say it is written in the Bible that whoever refuses to work is not allowed to eat. Latter when I grew up I learnt it was also one of St. Paul’s exhortation to the church in Thessalonica. (2 Thes 3:10-12).
Though St. Paul was not one among the twelve, he is special to me because the twelve apostles were ordinary people who became extraordinary men after a Christ experience, while Saul was a fierce opposer of the followers of The Way, who with divine intervention became an ardent follower of Christ and an exemplary missionary! Today God’s reaching out to us, are we ready to change like St. Paul?