Readings: Acts 14:5-18 Ps. 115:1-4,15-16, John 14:21-26

“Paul, looking intently at him and seeing that he had faith to be made well, said in a loud voice, ‘Stand upright on your feet.’ And he sprang up and walked.” (Acts 14:9-10)

In today’s first reading, Paul and Barnabas fled for their lives upon hearing a rumour that a combined team of the Gentiles and the Jews were planning to molest them and stone them. Why did they run for their dear lives? First, remaining in that town would only put God to the test. Secondly, evangelisation is never forced. While sending out the twelve, Jesus said: “Wherever they do not receive you, when you leave that town, shake off the dust from your feet as a testimony against them.” (Luke 9:5). In today’s Gospel passage, Jesus stated that He will manifest Himself only to those who keep His commandments. Salvation is not by force. Let us now examine today’s lessons in detail:

1. Do Not Put God to the Test: There is a difference between exercising one’s faith and acting irrationally (throwing caution to the wind). Unfortunately, many Christians do not know where to draw the line. Some time ago, we heard of a certain man of God who claimed he could jump into the lion’s den and be unharmed. At first, the lions left him in peace. He started shouting: “Do you see? The lions can’t harm me.” The noise rattled the lions, and one of them came from behind him and dealt a terrible blow. Remember the words of Jesus: “Behold, I send you out as sheep amid wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” (Matthew 10:16). By running away, Paul and Barnabas applied the wisdom of serpents.

2. There is a Time to Run, a Time to Fight Back and a Time to Surrender: Running away when you can is not a sign of timidity or lack of faith; it is doing what is best. Do you know that Jesus escaped on several occasions when people wanted to kill Him? In Matthew 2:13-15, an Angel warned Joseph to flee to Egypt to escape Herod’s planned massacre. In Luke 4:28-30, Jesus’ townsfolk took him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, and they wanted to throw him down headlong, but Jesus slipped through the crowds. In John 8:59, the Jews took up stones to stone Jesus, but Jesus hid Himself. Again, in John 10:31-35, they picked up stones to throw at Jesus, but Jesus escaped. However, at the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus knew it was time to surrender.

3. Go Where You are Appreciated: A man and his son an old wristwatch to sell, saying: “If anyone asks the price, don’t say anything, just point out two fingers.” The boy went to the local market, where a young man asked the price, and the boy raised two fingers. The man asked: “Do you mean two dollars?” The boy took the watch to a pawn shop. When the dealer saw it, he said: “This is a classic watch; I will give you twenty dollars.” The boy took the watch to a museum, and surprisingly, someone offered to buy it for two hundred dollars. Still, the boy took the watch to an antique trade fair, and a man offered to buy it for two million dollars. Never judge your worth by the negative behaviour of others. Did Jesus remain in Nazareth after He was rejected? He didn’t need to force anyone to believe; he left them and went elsewhere. The same Barnabas and Paul who ran like thieves from Iconium became gods at Lystra. Barnabas became Zeus and Paul; they called Hermes because he was the chief speaker. For healing a cripple who had never walked from birth, they could not stop the people from offering sacrifices to them. Those making life difficult for you may not know they are pushing you to glory.  

4. Have Faith; With God, All Things are Possible: How on earth did Paul and Barnabas cure the cripple? First, they began by preaching the Word. As they preached, Paul looked at the cripple and “seeing he (the cripple) had faith to be made well, said in a loud voice: ‘Stand upright on your feet.’ He sprang up and walked.” (Acts 14:9-10). The cripple contributed to his miracle because he had faith. This is why Jesus would always say to those he cured: “Your Faith has made you well.” (Matthew 9:22, Mark 10:52, Luke 17:19). Miracles happen not because the man of God is powerful but because we had faith to expect such miracles. Do not idolise the person who prayed for you; they are only instruments. By believing, you contributed to your testimony. Remember that Jesus said: “If you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.” (Matthew 17:20). “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in me will also do the works that I do, and greater works than these will he do because I go to the Father.” (John 14:12).

5. If You Love Someone, You Will Follow Their Rules: In today’s Gospel passage, Jesus said: “He who has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me.… If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home in him.” (John 14:21,23). A man who truly loves his wife will never cheat on her and vice versa. You cannot claim to love God and still derive pleasure in disobeying His commandments. It is either you love God, or you are only interested in the benefits you gain from God – like the crowds who followed Jesus looking for bread, and when the bread was not forthcoming, they deserted Him. Our churches may be packed full, but God is interested in those who truly love Him.

Let us pray: Almighty, ever-living God, draw me nearer to you daily. Through Jesus Christ, Our Lord. Amen

Remember, amid all challenges, choose to be happy. Live with a positive mindset and believe in God’s plan for you. God bless you abundantly. (Saint Catherine of Siena, Virgin, Doctor. Bible Study: Acts 14:5-18 Ps. 115:1-4, 15- 16, John 14:21-26).

@Rev. Fr. Evaristus E. Abu