First Reading: Acts 9:26-31
The Change in Saul
26 After Saul arrived in Jerusalem, he tried to meet with the other followers of Jesus. But they were afraid of him. They didn't believe he was a real follower. 27 So, Barnabas decided to help him. He took Saul to the Apostles and told them, "Saul was on his way to Damascus when he saw the Lord! Jesus spoke to Saul. As a result, Saul talked about Jesus to everyone he met at Damascus."
28 Saul moved freely about Jerusalem and spoke about Jesus with a bold attitude. 29 He preached to the Greek-speaking Jews and even had debates with them. But they planned to kill Saul. 30 When the followers recognized the plot, they took Saul down to Caesarea and sent him back to Tarsus.
31 Then, the Church grew throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria. It enjoyed a time of peace. It lived in a deep reverence for God. The Holy Spirit gave comfort to the Church. And many more people joined.
26 Having arrived in Jerusalem, (Saul) was attempting to join the disciples, but all were afraid, not believing that he was a disciple. 27 Barnabas, having taken him in (to help him), brought him to the Apostles and told them how, on the way, he saw the Lord and that HE spoke to him, and how in Damascus he spoke boldly in the name of JESUS. 28 He was going in and out of (their company) in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the LORD; 29 he was both addressing and arguing with the Greeks, but they were attempting to kill him. 30 Recognizing (this fact), the brothers brought him down to Caesarea and sent him to Tarsus.
31 So, the Church being built up through the entire (area) of Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace; walking in the fear of the Lord and comfort of the Holy Spirit, (the Church) was multiplied (in number).
9:28 "He was going in and out of (their company) in Jerusalem" is a Semitic expression indicating a freedom of movement that Saul had in the city.
The scene shifted from Peter's ministry (last week) to Paul's early efforts. Saul of Tarsus, an intellectual Pharisee and opponent of the Christians, had a conversion experience (see Acts 9:1-9). Now, as Paul, he was a strong voice for the young Christian movement. Yet, many in the movement did not trust him .
Barnabas befriended Paul and spoke for him to the Church leadership in Jerusalem . Once he was introduced, Paul made his own presence known in the Jerusalem . We know that the reaction negative. Jewish Christians still kept their distance from this former enemy, while Paul's former allies among the Pharisees felt betrayed . In the light of threats from zealous Jewish converts, Paul escaped and returned home .
Luke added a final note about the growth in the early Palestinian church .
What happened to Paul was not surprising. With a sudden change within a strong character, Paul found his friends were few and far between. In addition, his presence was a threat to others in the Christian community; because of Paul, others might suffer. In the end, Paul went away.
When we have a change of heart, when we choose the Lord over fads or popular wisdom, can we face the consequences of loneliness? Can we stand up for our belief even when others might not understand and ridicule us?