Wednesday May 13, 2020 - Acts of the Apostles, Chapter 13 & 14
In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus says: “From now on you will be catching people.” The nets are spread wider in these chapters. As a Saul undertakes his first (of 3) missionary (the word means “one who is sent”- again, by the Holy Spirit) journey. But note the other names mentioned; there are no lone rangers in the community. We work together in a common mission, to proclaim Jesus.
On the island of Cyprus, Saul has a dramatic encounter with a magician. At first, the man seeks the light (the Word of God) but then turns against it and becomes blind. The inability to see is a sign of unbelief. This story of going from light to darkness is the opposite of Saul’s own story of going from darkness to light (Chapter 9). The name “Saul” is left behind here (ch 14, 9) and “Paul” takes center stage. This isn’t a name change; “Saul” was his Hebrew name, “Paul” was his Roman name; it was prudent (there’s that word again) for him to use his Roman name since he would be associating often with Gentiles in Roman territory. But first Paul speaks to his fellow Jews, breaking open the Scriptures for them (as Jesus did in Luke, 24). It seemed to go well. Paul and Barnabas then speak to the Gentiles with very positive results. But the shadow of persecution crosses the path again and they follow Jesus’ advice in Luke 9, 5 (take a look). This becomes a pattern: Preaching to fellow Jews and often meeting rejection, then to Gentiles and meeting acceptance. We need to be careful. There is no room for any kind of wholesale condemnation of the Jewish people in these stories. Not all Gentiles accepted what they heard from the disciples either. In the words of Pope St. John Paul II, the Jewish people are our “elder brothers and sisters.”
Paul and Barnabas heal a man who is unable to walk (like Jesus in Luke, 5 and Peter and John in Acts 3). This creates an “oops” situation when the crowd proclaimed them to be gods. In contrast to Herod Agrippa (Ch 12) they refuse to let this continue, proclaiming the living God. More persecution finds Paul getting stoned (no, not “that” kind of stoned). With Barnabas, he witnesses to the truth that proclaiming Jesus will entail hardships. They appoint leaders/elders (presbyters) in each church that they establish with their preaching. Coming full circle, they return to Antioch announcing the way God “opened the door of faith” to the Gentiles (by the way- that’s us).
Something to consider:
In chapter 13, Paul traces the hand of God in the life of His People. Have you ever tried that? Linking together the blessings enjoyed, the hardships weathered, the “coincidences” that astonished you in your life. It’s worth a prayer session.
Homework: Read Chapters 15, 16 and 17