Column: Paul’s work with the gentiles paid off quickly

Father Mike Stubbs is the pastor of Holy Cross Parish in Overland Park and has a degree in Scripture from Harvard University.
Father Mike Stubbs is the pastor of Holy Cross Parish in Overland Park and has a degree in Scripture from Harvard University.

Father Mike Stubbs

cDoes a puzzled look spread over their faces as I attempt to explain a difficult point? Worse yet, does anyone yawn, as a subtle hint that

I have gone on too long? What is their reaction?

Sunday’s first reading — Acts 13:14, 43-52 — shows a mixed reaction to Paul and Barnabas’ preaching about Jesus in Antioch in Pisidia, a city in Asia Minor. On one hand, many of the Jews who hear them in the synagogue are drawn to their message: “Many Jews and worshipers who were converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas.” On the other hand, there are other Jews who reject Paul’s new teaching: “When the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and with violent abuse contradicted what Paul said.” This negative reaction on the part of some of the Jews prompts Paul to focus his efforts on the Gentiles, who have also heard his message and are favorably impressed by it. Those Gentiles will eventually assume a major role in this new faith.

Christianity began as a movement within Judaism. But it quickly lost its Jewish character, to the point that it was eventually viewed as an entirely different religion. How exactly that happened to a certain degree remains a mystery. Perhaps the new Christian faith filled a spiritual vacuum in the Gentiles which was lacking among most of the Jews.

In any case, in the early days of Christianity, there were adherents of the new faith both of Jewish origin and of Gentile origin. The differences between the two backgrounds led to many of the disputes in the early church. Should converts from paganism be required to be circumcised? Should Christians keep kosher?

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