Acts 14:1-28 Paul and Barnabas experienced many difficulties in their efforts to spread the Gospel throughout the ancient world. In Iconium, for example, their presence caused a division in the community, and they were nearly stoned. In Lystra, after they cured a crippled man, the people mistook them for Greek gods and wanted to offer them sacrifice, but later, incited by some Jews who had come from Iconium and Antioch, they turned against Paul and stoned him. Miraculously surviving, Paul, along with Barnabas, re-entered the same towns again to strengthen the converts and establish leaders in the local communities to keep the Faith alive. (CCC 2114)
Ch 14:3-4 Paul and Barnabas were now considered Apostles. Although they were not among the original Twelve, they were Apostles by virtue of Paul having been called by Christ personally and by the fact that they had been sent forth to preach the Gospel.
By their hands: As Christ taught them, the Apostles used ritual gestures in the miracles worked by their hands. (CCC 699, 1507)
Ch 14:11-18 Lystra’s attempted deification of Paul and Barnabas springs from a popular legend that the gods had visited the area once in disguise and destroyed the homes of all households that did not welcome them. At the sight of the miraculous healing of the cripple, they decided that Paul and Barnabas were Hermes and Zeus incognito. The Apostles refused to be honored as gods. (CCC 2110)
Ch 14:14-17 Tore their garments: This gesture expressed objection or grief.
Vain things: Until Christianity reached the pagans, they had been allowed to worship idols. Christ’s teaching and redemption, however, was a call to abandon such practices and embrace the one true God.
Yet he did...gladness: God has always been knowable indirectly through the intelligibility and goodness of the natural world and the order of the universe. The marvels and wonders of the created world serve as a preparation for belief in the Incarnation of the Son of God and his teachings. St. Thomas Aquinas developed five arguments for proving God’s existence through a metaphysical analysis of the world. Attributes of a Creator can be found everywhere; all living beings and the created universe reveal his power, providence, and goodness in the world. (CCC 32, 1147)
Ch 14:19-23 Paul’s brutal stoning did not deter him from returning to the city.
Many tribulations: The Apostles warned the new Christians that trials and persecution awaited them. However, it was through faithfulness amid adversity that they could enter eternal life.
Elders: The Greek presbyteros is the source of the word “presbyter,” from which derives the word “priest.” (CCC 556, 2847)
Appointed: The Greek cheirotonesantes means to “extend one’s hand” in order to give authority for a particular position or task. Here, the Sacrament of Holy Orders conferred the authority to lead the Christian community and to celebrate the Sacraments.
When they had...many disciples: Proclamation of the Word inspires faith, which leads to Baptism. (CCC 556, 1236, 1554, 2847)
Ch 14:24-28 Returning to Antioch in Syria, Paul and Barnabas rejoiced at the fruitfulness of their apostolic efforts.
They gathered the church together: “Church” means “convocation,” which means to “call together.” It is God who gathers his people into the Church as one body, so closely identified with him that the faithful mystically comprise the Body of Christ. (CCC 777)
1 Corinthians 9:1-18 Defending his status as an Apostle and a witness to the risen Christ, Paul affirmed that an Apostle had the right to have his needs provided by the people he served just as the attendants and priests of the Temple received tithes. Indeed, the fifth Precept of the Church calls on the faithful to provide for the material needs of the Church. Paul, however, chose to support himself rather than rely on contributions from the faithful. It is clear from other verses in the New Testament, as well as tradition, that Paul was unmarried. While the Gospels mention Peter’s mother-in-law (cf. Lk 4:38), no mention is made of his wife or of any role that she might have had in his apostolic ministry.
Brothers of the Lord: The word translated as “brothers'' actually refers to all degrees of male relatives. The Church has always taught that Mary, the Mother of Christ, not only maintained her virginity at the moment of the conception and Birth of her Son, but that she remained a virgin all her life. (CCC 500, 857, 2122)
Ch 9:15-18 Paul was personally compelled to preach the Gospel because of his commission from Christ himself. (CCC 848)
Ch 9:19-23 Paul expertly crafted his preaching according to the needs of his audience. His education and depth of understanding of the Faith allowed him to tailor the Gospel to reach the Jews as well as the Gentiles from different cultures. His statements about becoming “a slave to all” and “all things to men” strike at the heart of Christ’s teachings on charity. An important component of Christian love consists in having a sensitivity and empathy for others in such a way that we identify with their joys and sorrows. (CCC 24, 876)
Ch 9:24-27 Athletic competitions were common in the world at this time, so Paul’s imagery would have been familiar to the Corinthians. Christians everywhere should focus on the ultimate goal of eternal life and give themselves entirely to a life of prayer and self-denial. (CCC 165, 1829)
Ch 10:1-13 The Exodus illustrates the importance of remaining faithful through difficult times. After being liberated from slavery in Egypt, the Israelites spent forty years in the desert before entering the Promised Land. During that time, they violated God’s covenant through idolatry and doubts against God’s providence. Many Israelites died in the desert without having seen the Promised Land. While temptation and hardship will be the lot of every follower of Christ, they can be assured of the ultimate victory. The New Testament and Old Testament are complementary; as St. Augustine taught, the New Testament is hidden in the Old and the Old Testament is unveiled in the New. The persons and events of the Old Testament often have typological significance, meaning they prefigure persons and events in the New Testament. For example, as Paul noted in this passage, the crossing of the Red Sea is a type, or figure, of Baptism, and the manna that came from Heaven is a type of the Eucharist instituted by Christ.
Under the cloud: A cloud is one of the symbols of the Holy Spirit; it is seen in the Exodus event, as well as at the Annunciation and in the Transfiguration (cf. Lk 1:35; Mt 17:5). The Baptism instituted by Christ is by water and the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 11:16). (CCC 128-129, 694, 697, 1094, 1221)
Ch 10:9 We must not put the Lord to the test: To second-guess or complain about God’s plans and wisdom shows disrespect and a lack of trust in his goodness and providence. No matter what the circumstances, we must be convinced of his love and care for us. In the wilderness before beginning his public ministry, Christ used the words of Deuteronomy to rebuke Satan for having tempted him: “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test” (Dt 6:16). (CCC 2119)
Ch 10:11 The Church recognizes that the writings of both the Old Testament and the New Testament are directly inspired and prompted by the Holy Spirit. Among the four senses of Scripture-spiritual, allegorical, moral, and anagogical-Paul referred here to the moral sense, suggesting that the stories and exhortations of Scripture should lead the faithful to live virtuous lives. Typology is the study of persons or events in the Old Testament that prefigure, or point to, persons or events in the New Testament that refer either directly to Christ or his teachings. (CCC 117, 2175)
Ch 10:13 This amazing comment attests to the work of grace within us. The Lord will always remain faithful in his commitment to help us avoid sin and grow in sanctity. Therefore, God will permit no temptation that goes beyond our strength. If we fall into sin, it is because we are not faithful. However, no one should believe that his or her salvation is assured or that he or she will never fall. Only through God’s grace can we endure until the end. (CCC 1887, 2846, 2848, 2863)
Ch 10:14-22 Although food sacrificed to idols was no longer considered unclean, Paul advised the Corinthians not to participate in pagan banquets, which were in essence a continuation of the pagan ritual sacrifice. Just as the Christian sharing in the Eucharist made the faithful one Body in Christ, the pagan banquet in a certain sense validated the immoral practices of the nonbelievers. (CCC 1334, 1361, 1621-1623, 1672)
Ch 10:16-17 In receiving the Body of Christ in Holy Communion, we are united with Christ and, as a consequence, with one another through his Church.
Cup of blessing: A cup blessed during the Jewish Passover meal that symbolized hope for the coming of the Messiah and the restoration of Jerusalem. This was the cup Christ consecrated at the Last Supper, becoming the chalice of his Blood in the Eucharistic Sacrifice, In this passage, Paul used sacrificial analogies in referring to the Eucharist; his words assure us of both the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist and the sacrificial nature of the mass.
Table of the Lord: The altar in the Temple was referred to as the Lord’s Table. (CCC 1327, 1331, 1396, 1419, 2047-2048)
Ch 10:23-33 Paul advised that if they did not know if the meat at the market or at an unbeliever’s house had been sacrificed to idols, they should not inquire but simply offer thanks to God for the food. However, if they had learned that it was from a pagan sacrifice, then they should refrain from eating so as to avoid the possibility of scandal. (CCC 953)
(*The Didache Bible RSV-CE Ignatius Edition, 2006)
So in Acts of the Apostles we have Paul and Barnabas continuing their journey
They go to Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe
They go all over the place
In Lystra, there is a man who has never been able to walk in his entire life
The Lord Jesus heals him through Paul and Barnabas’ ministry
So the people want to worship them as Zeus and Hermes
This HORRIFIES Paul and Barnabas
When it comes to human beings we are so fickle, right?
We see this in the Gospel on Palm Sunday and the people are saying, “Hosanna to the King of David!”
By Friday, they are yelling, “Crucify Him!”
Here’s another great example…
In Lystra, they want to WORSHIP Paul and Barnabas
Then some Jews come to the city from Antioch and they persuade the people to STONE PAUL!!!
The same person they were about to WORSHIP AS A GOD they then STONE HIM
It shows us the TRUTH
The truth is the praise of men and the blame of men
The accusation of men
The fame that comes from human beings
NONE OF IT MATTERS!!
IT IS SO FICKLE!!
It comes and it goes
The same people who say, “We want to worship you today,” will literally KILL you tomorrow
THAT IS WHAT THEY DID TO JESUS!!
In the city of Lystra, this is what they do to Paul
This is what WE can expect as Christians
We NEVER expect the world to love us
NEVER EXPECT THE WORLD TO LOVE YOU IF YOU BELONG TO JESUS
THIS IS JUST THE REALITY!!
Not only that…
We HAVE to prepare ourselves for suffering
So after Paul leaves, he returns to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch
What did they do?
Acts 14:21-22, “When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.”
A translation that Fr. Mike loves, we use at mass (The New American Bible) says, “It is NECESSARY that through many sufferings we enter the Kingdom of God…”
Something like that
The reality here is St. Paul is saying this after he had just been stoned
He says, “It is necessary that we enter the Kingdom of God through suffering, through tribulations, through many tribulations in fact.”
THIS IS SO IMPORTANT!!
Here are Paul and Barnabas and they are STRENGTHENING the souls of the disciples by reminding them of this
We enter the Kingdom of God through MANY TRIBULATIONS
So if I find myself in tribulation, I can SURRENDER to that and say, “Ok Lord…”
I mean, I can fight it too
That makes sense
That’s a dignified thing to do
If we find ourselves in places of injustice, yes of course we can ALWAYS fight for justice and we can also fight for good
No matter what we do, no matter how much we fight, we are still in the midst of that tribulation
Whether it be sickness, loss, grief, or whatever the thing is
IN AND THROUGH MANY TRIBULATIONS WE MUST PASS IN ORDER TO BE SAVED
This is how Paul and Barnabas strengthen the souls of the Apostles
By letting them know that THIS IS COMMON TO EVERYONE
Speaking of common to everyone…
There is a line in the readings today where St. Paul says this…
IT IS REMARKABLE!!
Fr. Mike wants to go in order but he isn’t going to go in order (can’t make it TOO easy can we? 😉)
We start with 1 Corinthians Ch 10
1 Corinthians 10:13, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”
THIS IS IMPORTANT FOR ALL OF US!!
There are some of us who would say, “The temptations that I experience are just too much. The suffering that I have to go through is just too much.”
Yes, there are different kinds and levels of temptation and sufferings
One of the things the Word of God is declaring to ALL OF US right now is that WE ARE MORE ALIKE THAN WE ARE DIFFERENT
There is no temptation that is overtaking YOU that is not common to EVERYONE
There is no “In my case”
The truth of the matter is that EVERY SINGLE ONE OF US MUST ENDURE MANY SUFFERINGS
MUST GO THROUGH MANY TRIBULATIONS IN ORDER TO BE SAVED
It’s just how it goes (You hearing this, prosperity gospel preachers??? 🤪)
Read 1 Cor 10:13 again
It’s not just enough to bear down and grit your teeth and white knuckle this whole thing
NO NO NO
God is FAITHFUL
He will NOT let you be tempted beyond your strength
But with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it
OH MY GOSH!!
Now on to 1 Corinthians Ch 9
One of the claims Paul is making here is the RIGHTS OF AN APOSTLE
And he basically says…
When Paul went to Corinth, he was a tentmaker and so he didn’t ask for any money or support from anyone
He just simply worked
And here is Paul saying, “Remember, I could have, and remember that it is a real thing that you pay people who give you good service. You don’t muzzle an ox when it is treading up the grain. The priests in the Temple eat of the sacrifices.” (I’m sorry everyone, I’m not really sure if this is Fr. Mike saying that St. Paul is speaking...you know the whole stream of consciousness speaking style 😉)
Remember we went through the entire Old Testament
Priests didn’t have any land
So how did they eat?
They eat because they take a portion of what is given in the Temple
St. Paul is saying, “I can too. I also can demand that since I have brought you the Gospel, I served you and I can demand that you take care of me. But I have made no use of any of these rights. Nor am I writing this to secure any such provision. I am trying to let you know that I love you. I’m trying to let you know that I care about you. I’m trying to let you know that I’m not going to make any demands on you that are excessive, that aren’t for your own sake.”
THIS IS JUST SO IMPORTANT!!
Not only does St. Paul have RIGHTS
He also has RESPONSIBILITIES
1 Corinthians 9:19-23, “For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, that I might win the more. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews; to those under the law I became as one under the law-that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law-not being without law toward God but under the law of Christ-that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.”
The end of Ch 9 is one of Fr. Mike’s favorites and he keeps coming back to it
Not because Fr. Mike was an athlete
BUT BECAUSE IT IS SO TRUE!!
1 Corinthians 9:24, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize?”
There are no participation trophies in heaven
“So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.”
Think about that…
Think about olympians and how hard they work
How much they say NO to themselves
How much they say NO to certain foods, drink, alcohol, tobacco, etc.
How much they say YES to working long, hard hours
How much they say YES to sleep
How much they say NO to going out
All these pieces in order to do what?
IN ORDER TO WIN A PERISHABLE WREATH, BUT WE AN IMPERISHABLE
If an Olympic athlete is striving for a gold medal MORE than I am striving for Heaven…
This is why Fr. Mike loves this because it pierces him to the heart
If an Olympic athlete is striving for a gold medal that no one is going to remember next month, if they are striving more for a medal harder than I am for Heaven, then who is the fool here?
We have the saying, “All things in moderation.”
You don’t win a gold medal in the Olympics through moderation
Champions don’t practice moderation
They have a SINGLE MINDED DEVOTION
They are SINGLE MINDED in their goal
Yes, there is such a thing as PRUDENCE
Yes, there is such a thing as SENSE
Yes, virtue lies in the middle
That is not having MODERATE virtue
That is having EXTREME AMOUNTS of virtue
1 Corinthians 9:26-27, “Well, I do not run aimlessly, I do not box as one beating the air; but I pommel my body and subdue it, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.”
Remember, they keep going back to FASTING
They keep going back to PRAYER
This is NORMAL for the Apostles
This is NORMAL for disciples in the early Church
I POMMEL MY BODY AND SUBDUE IT
So people think, “Wow! Catholics talk about mortifications. They talk about doing penances and that is strange.”
IT IS NOT STRANGE AT ALL!!
I pommel my body and subdue it, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified, because HEAVEN IS A GIFT
IT IS FREE!!
GOD’S GRACE IS A GIFT!!
IT IS FREE!!
I CAN DISQUALIFY MYSELF BY SAYING NO TO GOD’S WILL AT SOME POINT
So through fasting and prayer
Through relying upon God
Through pommeling our body and subduing it
EVERYTHING FOR GOD’S GLORY!!
If someone striving after an Olympic gold medal is working harder striving for that thing than I am for Heaven, THEN SOMETHING IS OFF!!
So we ask God, “God, please help me. Help me to strive for Heaven like a champion strives for the championship. Help me to strive for Heaven like a state high school cross country runner who strives to make it to state high school [competition]...even to make it to states, they work harder than so many of us do when it comes to our faith. Lord God, please help us to be faithful. Lord God, please help us to strive after you. Help us to strive out of not fear, but out of love for you out of a desire to always be with you forever. Not simply a desire to not be separated from you, but a desire to be WITH you. Let that motivate EVERY ONE OF OUR ACTIONS from this moment until the last moment, until the Final Day. Until the day we step into your presence. God, we ask you this. Please help us.”
FR. MIKE IS PRAYING FOR YOU!!
PRAY FOR FR. MIKE!!
PRAY FOR EACH OTHER
Prayer by Fr. Mike: “Father in Heaven we give you praise. We give you glory. We ask you to hear our prayers. And we ask you to please help us to not turn away from your Law. Help us to always be attentive to your Word. God, we ask that you open our eyes to see your will and your presence in all places and all things and all events. Help us to open our ears, Lord God. We ask you to please open our ears so we can hear your Word and we can hear the voices of our brothers and sisters and respond in love. Give us hearts like yours, Lord God. You love perfectly. You love infinitely. You love well. Help us to love more perfectly. Help us to love like you. Help us to love well. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.”