Today’s First Reading: Act 14:5-18 – 5th WEEK OF EASTER: Monday, 20 May 2019
Imagine Paul’s shock when the people of Lystra called him Hermes! It all seemed to innocent at first. Paul had sensed that the lame man had the faith to be healed, so he spoke boldly and told the man to stand up. But the onlookers did not understand that they had just seen the power of Jesus working through Paul. Instead, they assumed that Greek gods had performed this miracle – and that Paul and Barnabas were gods! These two apostles must have wondered where they had gone wrong! Through this humorous situation, Luke showed the foibles of our humanness. The unexpected can happen, even when we are doing our best to serve the Lord.
Paul and Barnabas were not the first to perform a miracle and experience the adulation of a crowd. Peter and John excited onlookers when they healed a man before entering the temple (Acts 3:1-4); Jesus had to escape from a crowd that wanted to make Him king because He miraculously fed five thousand men (John 6:1-15).
Should fear of the unexpected keep us from trying to preach the Gospel? No. These Gospel stories remind us that the fruit of our efforts should always be credited to God’s power. There is much we can learn from every experience, however unexpected. Paul, though probably mortified by what occurred, learned more deeply how to preach Jesus to pagans – and how not to. Good came from the situation, even though not exactly as Paul had planned.
Trial and error – even humor – have a place in following Jesus. We learn much in Church, through the scriptures, and in prayer. But let’s not forget that we also learn as we listen to the Holy Spirit and take risks in reaching out to others in Jesus’ name. God never condemns us for trying. He only asks that we remain teachable. We can take comfort in Jesus’ promise that “the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you” (John 14:26).
Jakarta, 20 May 2019
A Christian Pilgrim