Acts of the Apostles 14:5-18
Eventually with the connivance of the authorities a move was made by pagans as well as Jews to make attacks on the apostles and to stone them. When the apostles came to hear of this, they went off for safety to Lycaonia where, in the towns of Lystra and Derbe and in the surrounding country, they preached the Good News.
A man sat there who had never walked in his life, because his feet were crippled from birth; and as he listened to Paul preaching, he managed to catch his eye. Seeing that the man had the faith to be cured, Paul said in a loud voice, ‘Get to your feet – stand up’, and the cripple jumped up and began to walk.
When the crowd saw what Paul had done they shouted in the language of Lycaonia, ‘These people are gods who have come down to us disguised as men.’ They addressed Barnabas as Zeus, and since Paul was the principal speaker they called him Hermes. The priests of Zeus-outside-the-Gate, proposing that all the people should offer sacrifice with them, brought garlanded oxen to the gates. When the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard what was happening they tore their clothes, and rushed into the crowd, shouting, ‘Friends, what do you think you are doing? We are only human beings like you. We have come with good news to make you turn from these empty idols to the living God who made heaven and earth and the sea and all that these hold. In the past he allowed each nation to go its own way; but even then he did not leave you without evidence of himself in the good things he does for you: he sends you rain from heaven, he makes your crops grow when they should, he gives you food and makes you happy.’ Even this speech, however, was scarcely enough to stop the crowd offering them sacrifice.
Jesus said to his disciples:
‘Anybody who receives my commandments and keeps them
will be one who loves me;
and anybody who loves me will be loved by my Father,
and I shall love him and show myself to him.’
Judas – this was not Judas Iscariot – said to him, ‘Lord, what is all this about? Do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?’ Jesus replied:
‘If anyone loves me he will keep my word,
and my Father will love him,
and we shall come to him and make our home with him.
Those who do not love me do not keep my words.
And my word is not my own:
it is the word of the one who sent me.
I have said these things to you while still with you;
but the Advocate, the Holy Spirit,
whom the Father will send in my name,
will teach you everything
and remind you of all I have said to you.’
Seeing that the man had the faith to be cured
I didn’t like the verse above when I first read it because it seemed to me that God only cured those who with faith. This bothered me as I felt that I am not a person who has “enough” faith. It therefore appeared that God would never cure me from my various struggles.
What, however, does having “enough” faith mean? What does having “enough” faith look like? Is it only people who pray daily who have “enough” faith? To me, it is. It is those who set aside time each day for the Lord who are the ones who have faith. It is those who can somehow “sense” God’s will who have faith. It is those follow God’s ways “perfectly” who have faith.
Based on my standards above, the crippled man from birth above did not have faith. After all, Paul’s preaching was his first encounter with the Lord. Yet, Paul saw faith in him. What is this faith that Paul saw? It was not faith based on the set of rituals and rules that I described. The faith that Paul saw was a heart that was open.
The crippled man’s heart was open to listen to Paul’s preaching and probably yearned for an experience of the resurrected God. As such, he was able to receive God into his heart and into his life. His physical healing represented his new life from God. Crippled from birth, he was now physically free to live and move in a way that he had never known was possible.
When I reflect on my relationship with God, there are many times when I have closed my heart to Him because I feel that I have not performed my “holy” rituals and rules. Yet, whenever I surrender, abandon all these preconditions that I have placed on our relationship, and simply ask Him to come to me as I am, I always experience my heart opening and a renewing of our relationship.
Like the crippled man in today’s first reading, you and I can experience a life that we have never known possible when our hearts are open to God. What is preventing your heart from being opened to the Lord today? Is it rules and rituals? Pride? Anger? Fear of the unknown? Comfort in a life of being away from Him? All of the above? Something else? Let us abandon whatever it is that blocks us and allow Jesus to enter into our hearts. Through Him, we will experience the freedom, joy, and abundance that we have never tasted.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Jean Cheng)
Prayer: Lord, I fear that when my heart is constantly open to You, You will keep hurting me by picking on me and telling me that whatever I do is “not good enough”. I surrender this wound to You today and ask You to heal me and set me free, as You have for my brother in today’s first reading. Amen.
Thanksgiving: We thank God for always wanting to give us a life that is even more abundant and full than we have ever experienced before.
Tue, 24 May – Acts of the Apostles 14:19-28; John 14:27-31
Wed, 25 May – Acts of the Apostles 15:1-6; John 15:1-8; Memorial for St Bede the Venerable, Priest & Doctor of the Church; Memorial for St Gregory VII, Pope; Memorial for St Mary Magdalene de’ Pazzi, Virgin
Thu, 26 May – Acts of the Apostles 15:7-21; John 15:9-11
Fri, 27 May – Acts of the Apostles 15:22-31; John 15:12-17; Memorial for St Augustine of Cantebury, Bishop
Sat, 28 May – Acts of the Apostles 16:1-10; John 15:18-21
Sun, 29 May – Acts of the Apostles 8:5-8.14-17; 1 Peter 3:15-18; John 14:15-21; Sixth Sunday of Easter