St. Paul was a tent-maker from Tarsus, as rigid as a Pharisee and as learned as a rabbi. He was devoted to Jerusalem and zealous in persecuting the Early Church until his miraculous conversion, which we celebrate today.
After his conversion, Paul embraced the Faith so zealously that he received the title “Apostle.” He spent the rest of his life traveling the Roman empire on missionary journeys and enduring staggering trials for the propagation of the Faith.
So how could such a heroic and saintly preacher create controversy?
In his attempts to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ, Paul encountered staunch resistance from most of the Jews. The Gentiles, on the other hand, were often very receptive to the Word of God. So, Paul and his traveling companion preached to the Gentiles, gaining many disciples among them.
Eager to tell this news to the other Apostles, Paul hastened to Antioch, saying, “I have opened a door of faith to the Gentiles!”
Some of the disciples from Judea were not pleased about this. They had been preaching only to Jews, saying that no one who was uncircumcised could be saved. They argued with Paul intensely, causing such dissension that everyone finally agreed to take the matter to the Twelve.
Peter and the rest of the Apostles called a council in Jerusalem and settled the matter of whether Gentiles could receive the Faith and be saved. The council supported Paul’s actions, drawing from Sacred Scripture and Peter’s own experience among the Gentiles.
Paul’s holiness and spiritual strength shine through his writings in the Bible. In fact, he persevered all his life against a temptation or spiritual trial, a “thorn in his side,” that would not leave him. He often found himself in the same spiritual position, but he didn’t become discouraged.
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