Archive for May, 2019

Acts 11: Step by Step

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

El Greco: The Apostles Peter and Paul – The Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia

I sometimes become discouraged when the world seems narrow, cruel and bleak.  I sometimes feel as if my hopes and prayers are looking in all the wrong places for all the wrong solutions.  I sometimes cannot believe that I have understood what God has in mind.  So much in this world does not make sense.  And this is when I turn to Acts and the stories of the fledgling church for it is here that God’s will for us is so clear.  It is in these chapters and verses that we witness an incredible burgeoning of Spirit and an amazingly tenacious church.  A small band of ordinary people begin an extraordinary movement.  I wonder if they would succeed in the world we know today.

Patience, perseverance, boldness.  These are the marching orders for Christ’s fledgling Church, his new and blushing bride.  Many new members are joining and the persecutor Saul has become the advocate Paul.  The first major breach has occurred and now step by step (verse 4) Peter gets to the heart of his message: The resurrection is not only meant for the Christ; it is a gift given to each of us by the Creator . . . and our first step toward this gift is our baptism in the Spirit.  Peter explains the message he received from God in a vision and wraps up his thinking with one on my favorite verses: Who was I to hinder God? 

The Church undergoes persecution in Antioch, the place where the followers of Jesus were first called Christians.  Stephen has been stoned and is the Church’s first martyr.  Barnabas continues as a loyal preacher of the Story, adding members to the Church.  Step by step, with patience, perseverance, and boldness, these early founders move gently but firmly as they form Christ’s Bride – the Church.  Prayers are answered.  Miracles happen.  Prayers are asked and answered, although not always understood.  The Holy Spirit works in mysterious ways.   I need to remember these lessons when I feel deserted, overwhelmed or lost.

Often we should not really be able to recognize an answer to prayer if it came.  Maybe the Holy Spirit was using our little prayer for some much larger purpose, of his own, and his prayer may be answered even if our little prayer seems to remain unnoticed.  It is in God’s hands from start to finish, and we must accept that and not try to wrest it from him.

  Father Simon Tugwell, O.P.  Dominican priest, author of books on theology and spirituality, member of Dominican, Historical Institute, MAGNIFICAT  Meditation, May 15, 2010

We are cogs on the wheels of Christ’s Church at work and we have the freedom to choose how we go about completing our daily rounds.  We can choose to churn in place and stubbornly hold up the works, or we might move as we are asked.  Who are we to hinder God? 

We are part of the great fire that Christ brought to earth and we may fling ourselves at our work, burning out like a spark that leaps out into the night sky to extinguish itself quickly on the damp ground.  Or we might choose to stay close to the heart of the flames when banked for the night to hunker down when fuel is low, hugging close to the origin, joining with the other faithful embers who lie together, glowing and waiting through the dark and cold . . . to spring to life again with new wood and the coming of the morning light and wind.  Who are we to hinder God? 

Patience, perseverance, boldness.  These are the marching orders for Christ’s embattled and struggling Church, his faithful and hope-filled bride.  Who are we to hinder God? 

A re-post from May 7, 2012.

Image from: http://www.hermitagemuseum.org/html_En/03/hm3_3_1_2a.html

Cameron, Peter John. “Meditation for the Day.” MAGNIFICAT. 3.15 (2010). Print.  

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Acts 26:24-32: Madness

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Flemish Tapestry: Saint Paul Before Porcius Festus, King Agrippa and his sister Bernice

While Paul was speaking in his defense, Festus said in a loud voice, “You are mad, Paul; much learning is driving you mad”.  But Paul replied, “I am not mad, most excellent Festus; I am speaking words of truth and reason”.

For a number of days we have been examining the life of Paul and how he responds to God’s call.  In many ways he appears mad or crazy for Christ Jesus in that he puts aside all fear for himself in order that he do as God asks.  Paul trusts the guidance of the Spirit and for this reason he has turned himself over to the plan God has in mind for him and for all humanity.  Paul trusts God’s motives, God’s perceptions, and God’s wisdom, and in this way Paul leaves nothing to chance.  He places his fire-forged faith, his outrageous hope and his generous love in the one place that will always increase and never diminish him . . . Paul places all he has and is in God.   For this, many call him mad . . . even though Paul speaks words of truth and reason. 

Those who witness God’s goodness at work among them are amazed by what they see; yet they fear they do not have this same strength or courage.  Rather than join Paul they scoff at him, and call him mad. They do not understand that Paul has opened himself to God’s in-dwelling and has left behind his reliance on money, power and fame.  It is impossible for Paul to return to his old ways and so Festus and the world call Paul mad.  So will we be called once we step into the world of discipleship.

We have looked before at this portion of Acts but today we focus on the last lines of this chapter to think about Paul’s decision to petition an audience in Rome.  What we learn here is that it is impossible to be a stealth Christian.  Paul knows he must go to the center of the empire to speak aloud God’s truth and reason so that all may hear his testimony.

When we respond to God’s truth and reason we will meet derision.  When we become the light with Christ we must expect opposition . . . and we must not shrink from speaking out to Caesar.  When we live in the light we must expect to go to Rome.

We have thought about this often: the high price of apostleship, the heavy burden of discipleship, the cauldron of life we step into when we agree to bring Christ to others.  We see Paul move forward, asking to be counted rather than dismissed.  We watch as he brings Christianity to the world . . . and to us.

Paul does not shy away from notoriety as a follower of Christ.  How do we follow his example in the work lunch room, at family gatherings, in intimate conversations with friends?  Do we ask to go to Rome so that we might speak before Caesar?  Do we readily step into the light to own our madness?

As we move through Eastertide, let us consider our madness which is not the tragic madness of Shakespeare, nor the clinical madness diagnosed and recognized by the medical world.  Let us ponder madness that leads to eternal joy and so allows itself to be seen.  Let us meditate on this madness that is the sensation of resurrection, of rapture, of sublime love.  Let us wonder if we might share in the kind of madness that asks to go to Rome to stand before Caesar and declare itself.

Ruins of Rome

And let us pray . . .

The cost of our madness has already been paid: the high price has been set forward by Christ – he has purchased us, his pearl of great price.

The weight of our madness has already been lifted: the yoke has been taken up by Christ – he has redeemed us, his sheep.

The intensity of our madness has already been counterpointed: the profound strength has been provided by Christ – he has entered hell and risen to restore us, his beloved.

A re-post from May 6, 2012.

First written on April 6, 2009.  Re-written and posted today as a Favorite.

To see detail of the Flemish tapestry above click on the image or go to: http://www.dia.org/object-info/89a92d3c-260b-4ceb-b37b-baa8a1b5e7e3.aspx

For another reflection on madness for Christ read the Agrippa Hears Paul post on the blog. 

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Acts 26:24-25: Reactions to Paul’s Speech

Monday, May 20, 2019

Richard Serrin: Paul in Chains

Paul presents a defense to King Agrippa of his work with The Way in Chapter 26 of Acts and these two verses give a succinct report of the reaction to his words. He is “speaking words of truth and reason” yet people think he is “mad.” You may want to read further into Acts to see how the courtroom scene continues to play out.

Paul’s experience tells us this: Having people believe that we are crazy is often the cost of discipleship.

We hear God’s word, we convert ourselves, we begin to perform acts of truth and mercy and reason, we do God’s work, we no longer fit the mold we were in, we move out and into a strange and liminal newness . . . and others notice this. They do not like the change of dynamic. They were comfortable with “the way things were.” They want the old “games” to continue. Our newness is a challenge to the “oldness.” We are new wine in old wine skins . . . and the old skins know that they will break. So, much like Paul before the Pharisees and King Agrippa, we will encounter derision.

In each of the Gospels we hear the story of the crippled man whom Jesus cures and in each version of this story (Matthew 9:6, Mark 2:11, Luke 5:24, John 5:8) Jesus tells the man to take up his mat and walk.  In the Synoptic Gospels all are amazed; in John’s story Jesus causes a stir because he heals this man on the Sabbath – a day when no work is permitted . . . not even the carrying of a mat.  We notice that Jesus supersedes this old Sabbath law and heals those who ask for his help regardless of the day or time.  In Mark’s Gospel the man’s companions lower him through the roof of a house and challenge even the rules of physics by bringing their friend into the very space where Jesus stands.  We wonder if we are persistent enough to act in this way for our own friends.

We notice something else about these stories.  Jesus does not tell the man he heals to walk away from the mat that has served as his home for so long, nor does he say that the mat is to be hidden in any way; rather, Jesus says: Go and take your mat with youThe mat becomes a symbol of what has been endured and overcome through the healing generosity of Christ.  We can choose to see our own mat as a burden and curse . . . or we can choose to see it as a symbol of God’s love for us and his presence in our lives.   The manner in which Paul defends himself and his story before Agrippa reminds us of the mat which he has taken up in Christ’s name – his work with and for God.

A few days ago I was asking what I should do with the mat I now carry around which serves as an outward sign of my work with and for God. Paul gives me an answer.  He does not fear the derision or persecution that may follow.  And he regards his “mat” with honor rather than embarrassment.   Paul is not afraid to be amazed by and though and for Christ.  He moves forward, still with the mat; and in quiet, persistent confidence in God and God’s plan, he does not back down, he does not step away. He stands and witnesses.

And so must we step forward.  So must we witness in truth.  So must we act . . . for who can say what effect our words and actions will have on ourselves and others? Perhaps, like Paul, we will hear the words he heard from the Agrippa before whom we stand to testify, “You will soon persuade me to play the Christian.”

A re-post from May 5, 2012.

For a blog on the Cost of Discipleship with poetry and reflections, click on the image above or go to: http://cost-of-discipleship.blogspot.com/2012/02/unquenchable-desire.html

First written on March 22, 2007 and re-written today as a Favorite.

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Acts 26:1-23: Agrippa Hears Paul

Fifth Sunday of Easter, May 19, 2019

Nikolai Bodarevsky: Paul’s Trial before King Agrippa

One of the things we notice about Paul is that he is so intelligent he customizes his words for his particular audience.  We see him in Greek cities where there are few Jews but where the people are open to new thoughts and new ideas.  He appeals to their affinity to mythology by relating to their willingness to have a shrine to an unknown God.  He tells these people that there is such a god, and his name is Jesus.  He captures many in his apostolic net.  When he travels to towns populated by people accustomed to reading scripture (towns more heavily populated with Jews) he bases his oratory on Hebrew Scripture.  Both Paul and the Holy Spirit work mightily to bring all into the church, into Christ’s mystical body.

Last year when we read about the reaction to Paul’s speech we reflected and concluded the following: Having people believe that we are crazy is often the cost of discipleship.

We read his words today and see that he has given them a layman’s version of the Creed, this is what Paul believes, it is what we believe.  And like Paul, when we speak truth and light to power, corruption and darkness . . . we can rest in the understanding that people will think we are crazy!

There are so many places in our lives when this happens.  My parents would always say that you know you are doing God’s work when the establishment gets a bit uncomfortable . . . when the status quo resists change . . . not just any change . . . change that comes from the Spirit.  They would emphasis, as we hear so many times in scripture, if God speaks to you . . . and you do not speak, you do not move, you will have to answer for your omission of action and voice.

This labeling of disciples as crazy numbers us among the brokenhearted, so let us pray the morning intercessions from MAGNIFICAT.

You sent your Son to bring glad tidings to the lowly: may the lowly in our midst read the Gospel in your peoples’ acts of love.

            Make your Church a living sign of your love.

You sent your Son to heal the brokenhearted: may the brokenhearted of our world find relief in your peoples’ compassion.

            Make your Church a living sign of your love.

You sent your Son to proclaim liberty to captives: may those imprisoned in addiction, loneliness, and despair find hope in your peoples’ active concern.

            Make your Church a living sign of your love.

We are Church.  We are Jesus’ Mystical Body.  We are adopted sisters and brothers of the Christ.  We are disciples.  Let us read the words which Paul spoke to power.  Let us take them in.  Let us be The Word that moves into the world.  Let us remember and hold close . . . the knowledge that we are the brokenhearted, but we are not alone.  Amen.

A re-post from May 4, 2012.

Tomorrow we will see how Paul gives a succinct accounting of his work as a disciple to Agrippa.

For more on Paul’s speech before Agrippa including a video clip, click on the image above or go to: http://tyotb.blogspot.com/2012/03/pauls-trial-before-king-agrippa-acts-26.html

Written on March 11, 2008  and posted today as a Favorite.

Cameron, Peter John. “Prayer for the Morning.” MAGNIFICAT. 3.11 (2008). Print.  

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Acts 24: Listening to the Voice Within

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Paul Before Felix

Do we unite? Do we divide?  Do we disrupt?  Do we bring peace?  Do we shun and set aside?  Do we call together and make room?  Do we take?  Do we share?  Do we hide?  Do we reveal?  Do we tear down?  Do we make new?

When we hear Jesus speak about division rather than peace in Luke 12 and Matthew 10 we think at first that we have misunderstood his words but no . . . this is what he says:  I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!  But I have a baptism  to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is completed!  Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division.  From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three.  They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.  (Matthew 12:49-53Jesus tells us that there will be times when we will put ourselves in danger and that when we do he will accompany us to guide us.  We will have to listen for his voice within.

Paul finds himself up against great odds; he faces the lies of false accusers.  How does he react?  How does he go on?  He relies on God, he looks to the risen Christ, and he allows the Spirit to speak through him.

When we find ourselves in dark places with people we thought we knew but whom we now see as strangers, we too will need to know how to react.  We will need to know what to do.  And so we must also listen to God within and allow the Spirit to speak through us.

We continue with more thoughts from Fr. Zundel’s meditation from yesterdayHence [we have] the image of greatness that can only express itself by dominating others, using dependence as a pedestal.  Our natural desire to be great, contaminated by  this image, inevitably develops in this direction as a craving for power, of which Jesus alone has radically cured us be revealing that God’s inner life is an eternal communion of love . . . A totally new notion of greatness comes to light in this infinite giving, which is God himself, something we are meant to imitate in ourselves by interacting with him . . . it is these moments of self-liberation that we best know God and experience him most strongly as the supreme and innermost reality within ourselves. 

St. Paul found that voice within . . . and he allowed it to speak in and through his own words and actions.  We see him converting others to The Way from his prison cell even as his own life dwindles in its years here on earth.  He does not seek greatness or power.  He seeks to do God’s will, and in this act . . . he has greatness.  A greatness far beyond any mortal fame or supremacy.  When I find myself up against power which wishes to control, or power which acts in passive aggression, I am frightened and anxious.  It is in these moments that I remember stories like today’s from Acts 24 . . . and I always ask myself:  What do I fear?  And as I sort through my confusion and alarm . . . knowing that I must unscramble myself in order to do God’s will . . . I become still as something wells up inside of me and whispers in my innermost ear: You know what to do, listen to the Voice Within.

A re-post from May 3, 2012.

Image from: http://tyotb.blogspot.com/2012/03/pauls-trial-before-felix-acts-25.html

For more on Paul’s trial before Felix click on the image above or go to: http://tyotb.blogspot.com/2012/03/pauls-trial-before-felix-acts-25.html

Cameron, Peter John, Rev., ed. “Meditation of the Day.” MAGNIFICAT. 28 February 2008: 396-397. Print.

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Acts 24: Listening to the Voice Within

Friday, May 17, 2019

Paul Before Felix

As we journey with Paul we find that he overcomes huge obstacles by relying on God.  Today and tomorrow we spend some time reflecting on what we might learn about ourselves when we quiet our minds and hearts to listen to God’s voice within.  Written on February 28, 2008 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

The charges against Paul are connived and false.  The people who hate him collude to find a means to his end.  They want to silence him.  They want him to go away.  The best charge which they can hang on him is like the one which spelled Jesus’ doom: the charge of treason against Caesar, the charge that he is trying to establish another kingdom . . . and in this his accusers are correct. This is the paradox of the Gospel and Letters.  This is the redeeming grace of the New Testament story.  We are saved by Jesus and these early apostles and disciples, men and women who saw, understood, and would not be swayed.  They stood up to power, to structure, to corruption, to anything that was anti-Jesus.  They were affirmed in these convictions by the Resurrected Christ, and so are we today.

The readings today for Morning Prayer and Mass are about our human tendency to be stiff-necked and thick-brained.  How can we say we are for Jesus when we act against him?  The readings are also about knowing how to live . . . by listening to the Voice Within.

This is the nation that does not listen to the voice of the Lord, its God.  (The Prophet Jeremiah in Chapter 7)

If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.  (The Holy Spirit in Psalm 95)

Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.  (Jesus in Matthew Chapter 11)

Children stop their ears to keep from hearing bad news: an angry parent, an unwelcome order, an unpleasant prohibition.  As adults, we sometimes stop the ears of our heart to keep from hearing God’s voice, lest there too we hear bad news, only to discover that we have shut out the good news of his incredible love for us.  (MAGNIFICAT, Feb 2008, page 390.)

The mystery of God’s voice is that we hear and understand God best through the diverse voices of Yahweh’s people.  When we are open to the diverse others whom God created, we develop our capacity to hear the inner voice, the Voice Within.

How good and pleasant it is when brothers live in unity!  (Psalm 133:1)  Unity is the work of God, wrought in Jesus Christ.  Division is the work of evil.  During Lent, let us examine our own contributions to the unity that gives peace or the division that sows suffering in the world around us.  (MAGNIFICAT, page 397.)

The temptation to turn ourselves into gods . . . presupposes that we perceive God essentially as a power capable of coercing us by crushing our autonomy.  (Fr. Maurice Zundel, MAGNIFICAT Feb 2008 Meditation, page 396.)

Today we read about Paul and Felix, two players in God’s plan as the church of Christ beings to flourish.  We see power that wishes to crush.  We also see power that hesitates . . . because hearts are softened when they listen to the Voice Within.  In today’s reading, we also see opportunities seized . . . and opportunities left to drift in passive aggression.  We see captivity.  We see freedom.  As we read this story today, we might well find our own place in the drama.  Are we Paul?  Are we Felix?  Are we Ananais?  Are we Drusilla?  Are we Porcius Festus?  Do we go to God in union with others?  Do we create division either by an overt act of commission . . . or a covert act of omission?  Do we join?  Do we bridge?  Do we unite?  Do we give?  Do we love?

Let us spend a bit time this evening to reflect on these questions . . . and to listen for the Voice Within.

A re-post from May 2, 2012.

Image from: http://crystalmarylindsey.blogspot.com/2011/12/do-you-see-world-with-eye-blinders.html

Cameron, Peter John, Rev., ed. “Meditation of the Day.” MAGNIFICAT. 28 February 2008: 396-397. Print.

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Acts 27: Shipwreck

Thursday, May 16, 2019

This week we spend time reflecting on St. Paul and his role in kingdom building.  We take this opportunity to think about the number of times Paul came up against overwhelming odds . . . and was rescued by God.  We take confidence in this knowledge for we too, are rescued from the shipwrecks of life.

We have all been tossed onto the shoals of an island, sometimes with friends, sometimes with captors, and sometimes with both . . . rarely do we find ourselves alone in shipwreck.

If you can find the time, spend a dedicated portion of your day or evening with this chapter because it reveals much to us.  In my view, the most significant lines are the last . . . [The centurion] ordered those on board who could swim to jump overboard first and get to the shore, and then the rest, some on planks, others on debris from the ship.  In this way, they all arrived safely to the shore.

Sometimes we are ordered to go to Rome, to the center of the universe, to the place where all things and all people go – to the place where all roads meet, where all communications converge.  Sometimes we go willingly; sometimes we are taken in shackles.  Life is at times a forced march, and at other times it is freedom which can be more frightening than captivity.  Paul and his companions find themselves en route to the capital city of the empire – Paul wants to have his say before the highest court in order to bring Christ to his largest audience yet.

When we read the description of the storm and its effect upon the travelers, we can liken it to the voyage of our lives – an unpredictable passage through uncertain and open waters.  As the ship takes on water and threatens to disintegrate beneath these travelers with their Roman guards, the sailors want to kill the prisoners before they jump to escape the break-up of the foundering boat.  I am fascinated by Paul’s calm amidst the chaos of his physical and spiritual life.  He has – as a willing servant of the Lord – been thrust into difficult waters and into dangerous arguments . . . yet he continues the journey.  He does as he is asked.

The Roman centurion, who had beforehand paid more attention to the pilot and the owner of the ship than to Paul, now re-assesses the situation and does not choose to kill the prisoners; rather he orders those who can swim to go overboard first, the rest to follow.  Before this part of the story, Paul exhorts all aboard to take heart; and he relates the dream he had the night before – an angel has told him that all will be well.  He outwits the sailors who would abandon ship to leave them adrift to die.  He encourages everyone to eat in order to keep up their strength.  He offers them the communion of bread to share.  Paul ministers to both his captors and his would-be executioners.  This is the role of a true apostle.

As my Dad used to say, “If we are taking on water and we are all in the same boat, why are we all not bailing?”

When we find the ship breaking beneath us, as followers of Christ we do not fend for ourselves, we do not accuse or abandon.  We are to bring Christ to one another.  We are to rebuke those who need rebuking, listen to any admonition a fellow Christian might offer us, tend to those who are weakest, bring all together in Christ and for Christ . . . for Christ knows what lies ahead.  Then surely, as loyal and faith-filled servants, we will jump into the surging waters and grab hold of the flotsam of the wreck . . . and riding the roller coaster of the waves of life . . . all will arrive safely to the shore.


A re-post from May 1, 2012.

Images from: http://twistedsifter.com/2011/04/25-haunting-shipwrecks-around-the-world/

Written on September 16, 2008 and posted today as a Favorite.

For 25 haunting images of shipwrecks around the world, click on the images above or go to: http://twistedsifter.com/2011/04/25-haunting-shipwrecks-around-the-world/

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Acts 9: Saul in Damascus

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Juan Antonio Frias y Escalante: The Conversion of Saint Paul

This is such an amazing story . . .

Peter John Cameron, O.P., refers to Paul/Saul’s fury in his June editorial in MAGNIFICAT.  He writes that this kind of rage is not to be confused with righteous anger or religious zeal because what we see at the beginning of Chapter 9 of Acts is “a kind of madness in which one loses control over oneself”.  His editorial continues to explore the sin of Paul in which the apostle himself recognizes “a divinely ordained purpose in his sin.  When Saul encountered Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-9), he met the One he had been waiting for all his life . . . the One whose presence and mercy gave him strength to reject all the destructive ideas that one demonized his life . . . The root of Saul’s sin was that ‘he had lived for himself” . . . and the only way out of such self-absorbed slavery was to meet Someone else who was worth living for”.  Cameron also cites a biography of Paul by Fr. Joseph Holzner: Saul traveled through sin and darkness before he found Christ . . . When a man feels the burden of sin and guilt on his soul, he tries hard to justify himself before his own conscience and before others by increasing his false zeal, and thus he sinks yet deeper into evil”.

This explains many people I know.

Cameron continues: “No wonder, then, that Saint Paul constantly reminds us in his writings of his imperfections.  ‘I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me.  Therefore, I am content with weakness . . . for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong’ (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).  Such conviction can be the result only of a life-changing encounter with Jesus Christ”.

When we meet up with people who mutter murderous threats, who imagine scenarios that do not exist, who create havoc and disturbance rather than peace and unity, who are engaged in the downward spiral of self-absorbed slavery to sin . . . when we see this behavior in ourselves . . . there in only one course of action open to us.  We remember that the faithful do not need to fight.  The faithful must only refuse to take an action that will separate them from their God.

We cannot fix the wrongs of the world; but we must stand and witness to these wrongs . . . and we must petition Christ that he meet these murderous people as they fly off to Damascus to persecute the faithful.  We petition Christ that he meet them in a flash of light, change their hearts, heal them . . . so that they, like Saul/Paul proclaim the story of Christ in the synagogues of Damascus.

We are all on the road to Damascus.  We are all searching for that which makes sense out of insensibility.  Are we open to our own encounter with Christ?  Once we reach Damascus, what do we do?  Do we continue to mutter murderous threats?  Or do we allow the healing hand of Christ to transform us?  When we go up to the synagogue to pray, do we arrest those who do not see Christ as we do . . . or do we pray that all hearts be transformed . . . including our own?  What sort of presence do we bring to the synagogue?  What do we do with the mercy we ourselves have been shown?

We pass these gifts of Christ’s presence and mercy on.  We respond as Christ always does.

A re-post from April 30, 2012.

Image from: http://blog.londonconnection.com/2012/02/18/st-pauls-cathedral-the-tympanum-of-the-west-pediment/9951-the-conversion-of-st-paul-juan-antonio-frias-y-escalante/

Cameron, Peter John, Rev., ed.  MAGNIFICAT. 3 June 2008. Print.

Written on June 3, 2008 and posted today as  Favorite . . .

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Acts 7:54-60: Martyrdom

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Andre de Giusto (Manzini): Stoning of Saint Stephen

It is difficult to connect the idea with God as a Good Shepherd to accounts like today’s NoontimeIn this famous scene of Stephen’s martyring, we have much to observe, much to absorb.   On this Sunday when we celebrate good shepherding, let us pause to examine the story and ourselves; and let us reflect.

When the crowd heard Stephen name them as stiff-necked and in opposition to the holy Spirit, they were infuriated and they ground their teeth at him.

How often do we gnash our own teeth and plot our arguments when we hear others make statements we do not believe?

But Stephen, filled with the holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.

How often are we able to put aside our rising anger and look for God and Jesus in the ugliness we see before us?

The crowd covered their ears, cried out against Stephen and rushed toward him.

How often do we rush against witnessing when we hear words that call us to something greater than we are willing to be?

They threw him out of the city and, and began to stone him.

How often are we more intent on silencing someone than listening to their inspiring and heart-felt words?

The witnesses laid down their cloaks at the foot of a young man named Saul.

How often do we gloat in silence while others suffer?

As Stephen fell beneath the stones he cried out, “Lord Jesus, receive my Spirit”.

How often do we stand by and watch as injustice takes place?

Stephen said with his last breath, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them”.

How often are we able to forgive those who transgress against us?  How often do we intercede for our enemies before our forgiving and loving God?

When we are in turmoil and pain and we look for the Good Shepherd to lead us to safety, where do we look?  We find good shepherds amidst the mayhem of life, in the fury of human battles, and in the chaos of darkness that seeks to overtake the light.  We find good shepherds tending to the shunned and the belittled, living with the marginalized and forgotten, healing the lonely and broken-hearted.  And once we find our Good Shepherd, this best of all shepherds, we must follow where he leads.  This following may take us along dangerous paths and through storm-tossed seas.  We may want to cover our ears and gnash our teeth as do the witnesses we hear about today.  We may, like Stephen, feel ourselves falling beneath the weight of too many stones thrown in rage against us; and we may see too late the martyrdom that overtakes us.

When we find ourselves backed up against a howling, angry pack . . . we, like Stephen, must also look to God and to Jesus.  And we must give ourselves over to the Spirit.  We will likely be surprised by the miracle in store for us.

This week we will read more stories about the man Saul at whose feet Stephen’s attacked tossed their cloaks.  We will see the miracle of this man’s conversion as he witnessed the martyring of Stephen.  And we will remember that God always pulls goodness out of evil acts; God always calls forth miracles from martyrdom.  For this reason alone . . . we must not be afraid.

A re-post from April 29, 2012.

Image from: http://all-art.org/DICTIONARY_of_Art/a/Andrea_Giusto1.htm

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