08 May Wednesday
This incident at Antioch of Pisidia reflects an aspect of Hellenistic culture, which was fascinated with religions and spiritualities of the East, the East being any non-Greek cults, rituals, and divinities. It would not be surprising if many people showed up in a synagogue to hear of this new and interesting religion. In any event the arguments were about the means to attain salvation, a particular Greek interest in Hellenistic culture.
At the same time, the jealousy arose probably because of Paul’s practice of using funds to address the needs of the local poor. The early apostolic community had quickly excelled in this practice, which threatened the power structures and dynamics of those who were either not assisting the poor or were not doing it as effectively and generously as the apostles. It is extremely important and valuable that the modern American church keep up its own history of generous giving to the poor. In this cultural moment of greed, this heritage is threatened.
For today, the Church remains an effective organization addressing the needs of the poor, yet is hardly ever posted in the news or the pews. At the same time today there is an increased “new age” interest in alternative means to salvation or meaning in life. Paul’s critique is that the members of the synagogue have rejected “their own”, and so the kerygma is now being given to the Gentiles. For Paul this journey is decisive in his ministry and in the scope of salvation for all the peoples.