JERUSALEM: THE MEETING WITH PETER
“Three years later”, Saul went up to Jerusalem to
get to know Kephas (from the word “Rock” in Greek),
the name he always used for Peter – and “remained
with him for fifteen days” (Gal. 1:18). It is
certain that the latter taught him the oral
tradition relating to Jesus which Paul had not known
(cf. 1 Cor. 11:23-35), as well as a Christological
interpretation of the prophets, according to what
the Master taught his disciples.
His visit was
discreet: the only other Apostle of the Church whom
Paul met was “James the brother of the Lord” (Gal.
1:19). Paul was spiritually enriched through
Mother-Church, but he could not integrate himself
into it, most likely due to his past involvement as
a zealot. He even escaped from an assassination
attempt by the Hellenist Jews (cf. Acts 9:29-30).
He was sent on his
way to Tarsus, where again he took up his work as a
tentmaker, and continued to proclaim his faith in
the synagogue (cf. Acts 18:3). These were the years
of his personal growth.
BEGINNING OF THE MISSIONARY ADVENTURE
At the beginning of the 40s A.D., Barnabas was sent
from the Church of Jerusalem to Antioch of Syria in
order to reclaim the Church established by the
Hellenist missionaries who were expelled from
Jerusalem. He went to Tarsus to seek Paul’s help and
became one of the leaders of the community,
evangelizing with great success. This became the
first separation from the synagogue environment,
because Paul preached also to the Greeks. Thus, a
mixed community was established. The “invention” of
the title Christians used for the very first time in
Antioch, represents one of the most beautiful fruits
of Saul’s preaching in this town.
Church of Antioch would become the center for
spreading the Gospel and living independently from
the Temple and the life of Judea.
The community of
Antioch was arranged with a solid formation and
organization. Thus, during a prayer assembly, the
inspiration of the community confirmed the personal
vocation. The voice of the Holy Spirit was heard
saying: “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the
work to which I have called them” (Acts 13:2);
then, the assembly prayed, fasted, laid hands on the
two men and sent them on their mission.
Barnabas and Paul
sailed towards Cyprus. Once again it is the Holy
Spirit who sent them in this direction: announcing
the Gospel in the synagogues in the Eastern part of
the island, in Salamis, later in the West, in Paphos.
From this moment in time, Luke began to call Saul by
his Roman name Paul, underscoring, in this way, his
right of full title to go on mission to “the nations”.
OF THE CHURCHES IN ASIA MINOR…
On the way to Sebastopolis, beyond Taurus, Paul
found himself completely immersed in pagan territory,
including cities that were strategic for Rome. Luke
speaks of Paul’s first important missionary speech
in the synagogue of Antioch of Psidia, a new Roman
colony; after a discouraging welcome by a majority
of the Jews, Paul addressed himself to the Gentiles.
Thus Paul and Barnabas went to Iconium, Lystra and
Derbe. The two Apostles strengthened the young
On the one hand,
they encouraged a common life among believers coming
from Judaism and those newly converted from paganism,
thus making enemies among the leaders of the
synagogues where they preached. On the other hand,
they appointed some “elders”, according to the model
of the Church of Jerusalem. When they accomplished
this mission they returned to the great city of
Antioch of Syria.