THE JOURNEY AS A CAPTIVE
In Jerusalem, alongside the joy of the community, Paul encountered a tense atmosphere as the Jews were very suspicious of him.
The Saint was handed over to the centurion Julius to be taken to Rome accompanied by Luke and Aristarchus. The journey, which in those days was an adventurous enterprise, was interrupted in Malta because of a shipwreck. The prisoner Paul found he was freer than the other 276 members of the crew: he was used to the sea and had experienced three previous shipwrecks (2 Cor 11:25) and above all he had a guarantee which came from God: ‘Not one of you will lose his life, only the ship will be lost,’ he told his companions when all seemed to be lost. ‘An angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship came to me and said: “Don’t be afraid Paul....God has spared the lives of all those who are sailing with you.”’
The stay on this simple and idyllic island (‘the natives there were very friendly to us, around a great fire’) symbolises the welcome which the pagan world will give to the Gospel.
Here Paul performed miracles: a snake bit his hand while the Saint was tending the fire and he tossed it into the flames without any pain and later he healed a man by laying his hands on him.
In 61 AD Paul arrived in Rome for his trial. For the two years he was held under guard in the heart of the city near the River Tiber (the modern Jewish quarter) he evangelised and wrote while awaiting the trail which never materialised due to the lack of a prosecution. But after the fire of 64 AD Nero accused the Christians of starting the blaze: Paul was arrested, held in chains in the Marmertine prison and condemned to death by beheading which took place outside the Aurelian walls on the Via Ostiense.