The first reading on Sunday, the 5th Sunday of Easter, gives a certain insight to the tensions that challenged the early Church. Saul had once persecuted the Church: now a Christian he faces death – yes, death – at the hand of other Christians. ‘Peace’ is only achieved by packing Saul off to modern day Turkey!
When Saul got to Jerusalem he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him: they could not believe he was really a disciple. Barnabas, however, took charge of him, introduced him to the apostles, and explained how the Lord had appeared to Saul and spoken to him on his journey, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus. Saul now started to go round with them in Jerusalem, preaching fearlessly in the name of the Lord. But after he had spoken to the Hellenists, and argued with them, they became determined to kill him. When the brothers knew, they took him to Caesarea, and sent him off from there to Tarsus.
The churches throughout Judaea, Galilee and Samaria were now left in peace, building themselves up, living in the fear of the Lord, and filled with the consolation of the Holy Spirit.
In the absence of Paul, it is Peter who is the key figure in the ‘liberalisation’ of the Christian community, helping shed some of the customs and laws of Judaism, opening the Church directly to Gentiles.
The ‘exile’ does not prevent the mission of Paul, maybe it even helps focus it and empower it.
Maybe the absence of Paul opens up a space in the leadership that Peter rises to in a new way, and forces him to exercise the discernment proper to the leadership of the Church.
- Where has reversal helped you?
- Where has it hindered you?
- When has it been best to flee?
- When to fight?
Bring the fruits of your reflection to the Lord in prayer.
Photograph of early Christian memorial plaque, Vatican Museum. (c) 2005, Allen Morris.