Sunday, May 2, 2010

Quiet at Tarsus

Very few Saints have been privileged with a clear foresight of what trials lay ahead. Usually we are made aware of the challenges of life, the trials of a mission or the difficulties of some undertaking as they happen. For St. Paul, however, just after he saw the Risen Lord on his way to Damascus, he was granted a vision of the sufferings which awaited him. After his conversion, he recounted some of what he suffered in his second letter to the Corinthians:

"Five times at the hands of the Jews I received forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I passed a night and a day on the deep; on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my own race, dangers from Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers at sea, dangers among false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many sleepless nights, through hunger and thirst, through frequent fastings, through cold and exposure." (II Corinthians 11:24-27)

Somehow,the Lord had to prepare St. Paul to endure these trials. Without this preparation, the temptation of giving into despair would have been too overwhelming. Indeed, this new Apostle, teeming with enthusiasm and fervor, had to be trained to see through short term sacrifices in order to lay hold of the long term gain of saving souls.

It is important to keep in mind that enthusiasm and fervor alone is never enough for perseverance. Such feeling and inner conviction are no match for the uncertainties, opposition, or even the dangers in carrying out God's work. Surprisingly, the preparation which God uses for such a work is often uneventful and quiet. Here, I refer to the simple but painful act of waiting on the Lord. It is in this that faith, hope and love are perfected. It is in this that great Saints are made. And to be sure, St. Paul was no exception.

Before the torrent of St. Paul's preaching was to be released into the ancient world this newly ordained minister of the Word had to wait in silence. Shortly after his baptism, St. Paul had visited the Church in Jerusalem only to have become the source of commotion and a object of hatred. The Hellenists (those who adapted to Greek culture) wanted to kill him and worse yet, the Christians in Jerusalem did not trust him yet. As a result, a short time after he began his mission, the Apostles sent him home, back to Tarsus. Few people know that St. Paul had to wait a long four to five years until St. Barnabas came looking for him.

For a zealous man like St. Paul, waiting on the Lord was no easy feat. "But God is a great King, and kings often expect others to wait for them."

More on Quiet in Tarsus in the next blog