Saint Paul had a nephew. We don’t know his name, but the family closeness became very important at a crucial time in Paul’s life as an apostle and preacher of The Way of Jesus Christ. Paul’s relationship with his sister must have been strong, for she seems to have sent her son to do some “critical listening” when a group of people were plotting to kill Paul.
As related in detail in Acts 23, the young man overheard the assassination plans and rushed directly to Paul in his detention cell, who asked him to take the story to a tribune, an officer whose job it was to defend the licit interests of citizens, rich or poor. The nephew did as he was told, and his actions for his uncle in effect saved Paul’s life. However, the plotters wouldn’t stop their efforts against Paul, until he was taken out of Jerusalem and brought to Rome for the final episode of his apostolic career.
There are many Easter season stories, but the above is not one that we come across very often. Yet that, too, contains an aspect of the Easter event that we need to pay attention to as Christians. What did Our Lord Himself say regarding Paul, when he was still called Saul? “…he is an instrument whom I have chosen to bring my name before Gentiles… I myself will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” (Acts 9:15b-16)
For the disciples, after the glorious Resurrection of Jesus Christ, there came the period of affirmation, of what they had experienced and now knew, that changed them forever. Immediately afterward came the missionary period, which has never terminated. All disciples would be missionaries, sharing the great news of God’s love with all peoples everywhere. St. Paul underwent his famous conversion, and was thrust straightaway into that missionary vocation.
Thus the struggles, the sufferings and persecutions of the many who spread the Christian faith over the centuries, were endured as part of the Easter mystery. The Risen Lord has never stopped desiring that all people be enveloped in the eternal grace and fruits of His Passion, death, Resurrection and Ascension. Therefore, the Lord has left us with a “missionary imperative.” In other words, we must do what we can to bring God’s word and sacramental grace to humanity.
When we consider our own missionaries in this country, we can only be in awe of their dedication and long-lasting good work to make the Easter events real and effective every day. Many of our missionary priests, sisters, brothers and lay leaders have no close relatives, as Paul did, in a time of loneliness or crisis. We are sure then, to keep them in mind, and give thanks to God for their unceasing courage and conviction.