Patronal Festival 2020
From 18 to 25 of January Christian Church through out the World celebrates the Unity Octave. 18 January is the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter, which is a feast of Authority. On the other hand 25 of January is a Feast of the Conversation of St Paul which is a feast of a transformation. This conveys the message to us that unity is not possible without a transformation.
This reality is highlighted in the life of Paul. He was a Jew and had the best education of his era in the Jewish community. His teacher was Gamalial, one of the best Rabbis of the first century. He was proud of the fact that he was a Pharisee and came from the tribe of Benjamin. The fact that he grew up in the cosmopolitan town of Tarsus gave him an exposure to the realities of then known World. His Roman citizenship made him an important person in the Roman Empire.
In spite of this comprehensive education, formation and exposure Paul was very ethno centric, exclusive and he had what is called "xenophobia" the dislike of the "other" who was not in his "group". Very specially, as a young person he was determined to eradicate the new sect within Judaism called "The followers of the way" who followed Jesus Christ. When the first martyr of the followers of Jesus Christ was stoned to death young Paul looked after the garments of the people who stoned him to death.
But one day when he was going to Damascus to arrest the followers of the way his life was transformed and his boundaries were expanded. He began to follow Jesus Christ who always encouraged his followers to expand their various boundaries such as ethnic, cultural and narrow religious limitations to have freedom from boudagers to include others with peace and harmony
Today we need to develop this attitude as human beings if we are to experience peace and harmony with understanding. This is the message of Jesus through the life of Paul who became the messenger of Jesus Christ to the gentiles in ths first century. In a way Christianity became a universal religion mainly because of the vision & mission of Paul of course on the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Let's follow the footsteps of Paul to become agents peace in our devided World.
Rt. Rev'd Keerthisiri Fernando
Bishop of Kurunagala