"We must undergo many trials if we are to enter into the reign of God." —Acts 14:22
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.
Prayer: Father, free me from any misconception about Christianity.
Promise: "There shall be no more death or mourning, crying out or pain." —Rv 21:4
Praise: Praise You, risen Jesus! Your ultimate self-sacrifice opened the way to the Father. Alleluia!
Reference: (Jesus gave us the authority and responsibility to pray always. The retreat Intercession & Healing on May 21-22 helps us grow in these gifts. Call 937-587-5464 to register.)
Rescript: †Reverend Joseph R. Binzer, Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, October 9, 2009
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