Tuesday the fifth week of Easter
Acts 14: 19-28
Psalms 145: 10-11, 12-13ab, 21
John 14: 27-31a
The scripture readings from today's mass really struck me. First, I read Acts 14: 19 - 28. It was impressed upon me that Paul's preaching of the gospel had effects that go from one extreme to another.
Yesterday, the readings described how Paul heals in crippled man in Lystra. "When the crowds saw what Paul had done they cried out in Lycaonian, “The gods have come down to us in human form.” The crowd thinks they are Zeus and Hermes come down to earth. Of course, being good pagans they run off to find some oxen to sacrifice to them, which in turn causes Paul to completely pop his cork and run into the crowd to tell them to stop. Further reading reveals that his protestations had little effect. Lovely! So here I saw an example of how those who preach the gospel can sometimes be mistakenly worshiped as god, rather than the true God.
Back to todays reading where I found Paul (probably still in Lystra) getting stoned. Talk about a 180! This happened because some Jews from Antioch and Iconium "won over the crowds" (the same crowd from the previous verses? hum...). The stoning was so bad that the attackers presumed that Paul was dead and left him for such. When the disciples gathered around him he got up and went back into the town. What courage! The fickleness of the crowd is a great counterpoint to yesterdays reading. We see that sinful human beings cut off from the grace offered to us in Christ Jesus are all to willing to worship "gods come down to us in human form" - as long as the particular god in question is not THE ONE TRUE GOD.
Another thing that caught my attention was how Paul left Lystra and goes to Derbe and then returns to Lystra (where he was both worshiped and stoned... Hey, that just reminded me that Jesus was worshiped as he entered Jerusalem and then murdered the following Friday! He then left and came back to encourage the disciples... Anybody see a pattern?) and he encourages the disciples there by saying " “It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God.” If anybody would know, it is Paul.
So, what is our consolation for all of this hardship? I found the answer in today's gospel reading:
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid."
Truly, this peace that Jesus gives us is not of this world. The peace we all too often run after would have us worshiping false gods or trying desperately to "stone" our relationship with the one true God. The peace Jesus gives affords me to rest in the knowledge that despite the hardships that I experience, I do not need to be afraid because Jesus has won for us a prize of inestimable worth, our salvation. When we abide in Christ's peace and patiently endure the hardships of life we can truly say with the psalmist:
"Your friends make known, O Lord, the glorious splendor of your kingdom!"