St. Paul had recently been stoned, dragged out of town, and left for dead (Acts 14:19). After being raised up and continuing his work, he gave his "disciples reassurances, and encouraged them to persevere in the faith" (Acts 14:22). When someone who's black and blue, with patches of hair pulled out, and an eye swollen shut talks about reassurances, perseverance, trials, and God's kingdom, he has credibility. He has already practiced what he's preaching.
Then Paul "installed presbyters and, with prayer and fasting, commended them to the Lord in Whom they had put their faith" (Acts 14:23). Paul was not well-groomed, handsome, and dressed in fine vestments as he led this prayer service. When the person praying over you has cuts all over his hands and face and has a couple teeth missing, the prayer takes on more meaning. We're not just being prayed for to be blessed, but to be sacrificed.
Finally, Paul returned to Antioch, the church which had sent him and Barnabas on this first missionary journey. "On their arrival, they called the congregation together and related all that God had helped them accomplish, and how He had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles" (Acts 14:27). Obviously this was not just a committee report. The congregation couldn't help but notice Paul's condition and realize that making disciples of all nations and being Church was more serious than they had ever suspected.
|Rescript: In accord with the Code of Canon Law, I hereby grant the Nihil Obstat ("Permission to Publish") for One Bread, One Body covering the period from April 1, 2010 through May 31, 2010.
†Reverend Joseph R. Binzer, Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, October 9, 2009.