16 May 2017
Some Jews arrived from Antioch and Iconium, and turned the people against the apostles. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the town, thinking he was dead. The disciples came crowding round him but, as they did so, he stood up and went back to the town. The next day he and Barnabas went off to Derbe.
Having preached the Good News in that town and made a considerable number of disciples, they went back through Lystra and Iconium to Antioch. They put fresh heart into the disciples, encouraging them to persevere in the faith. ‘We all have to experience many hardships’ they said ‘before we enter the kingdom of God.’ In each of these churches they appointed elders, and with prayer and fasting they commended them to the Lord in whom they had come to believe.
They passed through Pisidia and reached Pamphylia. Then after proclaiming the word at Perga they went down to Attalia and from there sailed for Antioch, where they had originally been commended to the grace of God for the work they had now completed.
On their arrival they assembled the church and gave an account of all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith to the pagans. They stayed there with the disciples for some time.
Jesus said to his disciples:
‘Peace I bequeath to you, my own peace I give you,
a peace the world cannot give,
this is my gift to you.
Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.
You heard me say: I am going away, and shall return.
If you loved me you would have been glad to know that I am going to the Father,
for the Father is greater than I.
I have told you this now before it happens,
so that when it does happen you may believe.
I shall not talk with you any longer,
because the prince of this world is on his way.
He has no power over me,
but the world must be brought to know
that I love the Father
and that I am doing exactly what the Father told me.’
“Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid”
One of the benefits of being educated in Catholic schools for 12 years is the regular exposure to the Catholic faith. Based on oral tradition and, from passages in the bible, we learn how almost all of Jesus’ disciples (with the exception of John) died violent deaths for their faith.
We see a similar situation in today’s first reading, where, despite being almost beaten to death, the apostle Paul returns to his work at the earliest opportunity and with extra vigour as well, encouraging the disciples that they should expect to experience hardships before entering heaven.
I have often wondered what many of us would do under similar situations. Would we have the same strong belief and faith to do what they did?
We find the reason behind such faithfulness, where Jesus promises His disciples peace and assures them of His return. Because they were there and they knew and experienced what it was like to be TRULY in the presence of God. This faithfulness demonstrated by the disciples clearly proves to me that our Lord and God is real. Putting myself in their situation, I would never sacrifice myself for something or someone whom I thought was not authentic. Why would they have done otherwise?
Living now about 2,000 years after Jesus’ time on earth and, not having the benefit of knowing our Lord in person, we need to spend time to develop a strong relationship with our God, so that like the disciples, we too will not be afraid to stand up for Him, regardless of the consequences.
(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)
Prayer – May we learn to be close to You, Jesus, as Your disciples were as close to You. Help us to experience Your love intimately.
Thanksgiving – Thank you Jesus, for reaching out to us and showing us what it means to be loved. Thank You for always being there for us.