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.’
How beautiful it is and privileged are we to have God assigned to us 24/7, that He will also be our constant reminder of all that we need to know in order to live a life pleasing to Him.
Within my circle of friends, we sometimes expect to be reminded of our meet-ups and it is rare that someone takes on the role of the ‘secretary’ (the one who sends reminders). It is just unpopular. On the corporate front, we have people following up on something if it is of benefit to them. But today we are reminded of one of the great promises Jesus made while He hung on the cross — that He would give us an advocate and friend. To a large extent, this is unbefitting of a sinner, to be with God while we harbour sin and even ignore His gentle voice. Certainly our Lord does not think as we do and perhaps, because He recognised this need for the Holy Spirit, He made this promise to us.
When I was in my early teens, I wanted to take up swimming lessons. We did not have access to a swimming pool in school and the only way we could swim was to take swimming lessons. I was adamant and asked my younger cousin to come with me. She was immediately given permission to attend swimming classes, which were out of regular school hours, because my uncle knew that we would be together and that we would look out for each other. It seems to me that Jesus is that loving Father who wanted someone — not just anyone — but God Himself, in the form of the Holy Spirit, to watch over us, guide us and be our friend.
I am sure that most of us love God. But how faithfully are we listening to His words? Are we able to ensure that our love for God is an act of obedience and faithfulness? Can we shun temptation to take heed to His calling and His way? Let us be encouraged to know that we are not alone and that we have a faithful companion on this journey.
What are our habits that cling to us so hard today? Is it an addiction, a stubborn heart, unforgiveness, or a stubbornness that says we do not need go for confession and partake in the Eucharist? What drives us and motivates us on a daily basis? is it our obsession for success, fame, control, power, beauty, youthfulness, freedom and the fulfilment of all our dreams? Are these not our idols?
Can we listen to Him today while we await His healing from illness and brokenness? While we wait for the return of a loved one? While we wait eagerly for a positive response from a potential employer or an invitation for another date with someone we fancy?
Let us offer our dreams and obsessions to the Lord and live a life free of idols of any kind. Let us ask the Holy Spirit to guide us.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Josephine Dionisappu)
Prayer: Lord help us to weed out any form of idolatry in us. Guide us Lord to follow your commandments.
Thanksgiving: Not to us, O Lord, but to your name we give the glory. Thank you for the gift of the Holy Spirit.