Tuesday of the Twenty-seventh Week in Ordinary Time
(Galatians 4:22-24.26-27.31-5:1; Luke 11:29-32)
Most diocesan and religious vocation directors have a policy of not allowing recent converts to begin the formal formation process for priests and religious. They know well that the enthusiasm of those embracing the faith is apt to wear thin after a while. In order to assuage fears that he too might be just a firebrand, St. Paul assures his readers in the passage heard today that after his conversion he spent three years in a kind of retreat to Arabia. Although it is not certain what he did there, he seems to have waited before beginning his proper mission in Western Asia.
We might speculate what Paul was thinking about during that time abroad. By this date the gospels were long from being written. And it was Paul himself who gave us the earliest known writings of Christianity. But Jesus was being preached by the apostles and their designates whom Paul no doubt conversed with. It is also possible that some of Jesus’ sayings had by this time been written down. What is extraordinary is how closely Paul’s writings conform to these sayings which were later gathered together in the gospel narratives. Cynics sometimes try to draw a line between Jesus and Paul, but careful comparison of his theology with the gospels shows relatively perfect harmony.
Paul was not only convinced intellectually that Jesus brought salvation, he experienced first-hand of what it consists. Today we read Paul’s own summary of that experience. He mentions no blinding light or falling down (this information is given in the Acts of the Apostles written much later), but that God revealed Christ to him as an act of grace. We might say that whatever happened, Paul definitely saw the light of revelation and that his life was turned upside down because of it.