Тhe holy Apostle Paul sometimes offers milk to beginners in the faith when he feels that solid food would be too strong for them.
Thus he writes to the Christians in Corinth: “I fed you with milk and not with solid food, for until now you were not able to receive it” (1 Cor. 3:2). He reproaches the Christians who converted from Judaism that they are not growing in the faith, but that they have become weak and that their journey to salvation has become slow: “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food” (Heb. 5:12)
However, the reading from the Epistle to the Galatians (2:16–20) is truly solid food. The holy apostle instructs the Galatians to leave aside the formalism of the law and to embrace the true faith in Christ the Lord
St. Paul often sets himself as an example. In his writings he can be very personal. He sometimes expresses sorrow, sometimes intense reproach and often his temperament is manifested in his writings. In this epistle reading he utters stirring and powerful words: through his sufferings he has likened himself to Christ and he is completely united with his Lord and God. “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2:20)
Do you remember those words of our Lord in which He says that he who loves father or mother, son or daughter more than he loves Him is not worthy of the Lord? (Mt. 10:37). That is solid food also. Those who can actually apply this in their lives are very rare.
In our everyday lives, when the need arises to change our routine, when it is time to begin fasting, for example, or when we need to get out of our warm beds on Sunday for holy Liturgy, we find these changes of our rhythm to be a great “feat of abstinence.” Now imagine if the Lord demanded of us to place our children, grandchildren, wives and husbands second to Him, or even to renounce them. What would we say to Him?
The holy Apostle Paul managed to fulfill this commandment to the end. He succeeded in transcending everything and anything that might have separated him from Christ and taken him in another direction, and to transform every breath and every step he took, as well as his whole being, into Christ. Therefore he can speak with complete authority about the perfect man who has reached the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ (Eph. 4:11-13)
In his epistle to the Philippians he again uses his own example. He says that because of his accomplishments and ancestry he could boast about himself more than any other man, according to human standards. “But what things were gain to me, these things I have counted as loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish that I may gain Christ. That I may know Him and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death (Phil. 3:7-8:10)
Towards the end of his earthly life, he was to pass once more through Jerusalem. He knew well through the Holy Spirit, that chains and many sufferings were in store for him there. All those who loved him begged him not to go to Jerusalem. He, however, reproached them gently, saying that not only was he ready to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of his Lord (Acts 21). “But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24)
While walking on the earth, the holy Apostle transposed his life to the heavenly domain. He directed all of his energy and every second of his life to the good and salvation of those to whom he had been sent. He did not live for himself but for others. “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain,” he wrote to the Philippians. “But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you (Phil. 1:20-24). His soul thirsted for the living God and could hardly wait for the moment when it would finally appear before the face of God. “This longing is a manifestation of the true and irresistible love for God,” says our holy Bishop Nikolai. “Let all who say they love God and believe in Him bow their heads in shame, if the very thought of death and departing from this world brings mindless fear to them.
The words in this reading of the holy epistle are given to us so that we may set our standards according to St. Paul’s life. We are far from being able to say, as the Apostle does, that we only live through Christ. The example that the Apostle sets is for us to attempt to reach it. It is a goal to strive for
Our faith is fruitful inasmuch as we apply God’s word in our lives and live by it. The more we obey it and put it to practice, the more things are revealed to us and the sweeter our strife is
St. Paul shows us the way to the Lord. He wants each one of us to show the same zeal for the realization of our hopes to the end of our lives: “That you do not become sluggish,” he says encouragingly, “but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises” (Heb. 6:12).