Holy Paul, Apostle to the Nations

On June 29 each year the Church celebrates the memory of the Holy Leaders of the Apostles Peter and Paul.  It is also our Patronal Feast Day for St. Paul the Apostle Church in Dayton, OH.

“Paul’s experience, however, was more than a conversion; it was also a prophetic call and a commission. Paul deliberately recounts the event with echoes of the call narratives of the prophets, especially Jeremiah (Gal. 1:15, see Jer. 1:5, cf. Isa. 49:5). Like the prophets, Paul believed that God had called him to a specific task. His was to preach the good news of Jesus especially among the Gentiles – the very ones whose inclusion had stirred him to violence.

The primary title associated with this commission is ‘apostle,’ someone sent with the authority of the sender, a kind of ambassador (2 Cor. 5:20). The apostolic title appears in the first verse of nine of the thirteen Pauline letters. When Paul speaks or writes, people listen – or at least he expects them to do so. But Paul had to struggle to prove his apostolic office. He had been a persecutor, so he was suspect for years. Furthermore, he refused financial support from those he evangelized, which was probably seen as disobedience to Jesus (Luke 10:7) and contrary to normal apostolic practice (1 Cor. 9:3-14). So too, perhaps, was his singleness (1 Cor. 7:7; 9:5). Beyond that, he was not a very ‘charismatic’ speaker (2 Cor. 10:10). When he exerted his apostolic authority in absentia (1 Cor. 5:3-5), or threatened to come as a disciplining father (1 Cor. 4:14-21), he may not have appreciated as God’s envoy. But ‘apostle’ did not mean ‘bully’ or even primarily ‘authority figure.’ It meant ‘father’, ‘mother’, ‘pastor’, ‘example’, and especially ‘Christ-bearer.’” (Michael J. Gorman, Reading Paul, pgs. 16-17)