Acts of the Apostles 13:15-16, 26-39
Happy Mother’s Day to the dear Mothers here among us. St. Paul wrote to St. Timothy to regard all older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters. This shows his love and respect for all women, and we men today would be wise to do the same. And Happy Mother’s Day to the Mother of our Lord, the Ever Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of us all.
We heard today a section of the Acts of the Apostles, which is considered Part 2 of Luke’s Gospel. Antioch in Pisidia was a Roman colony that served as an administrative center in the southern part of the province of Galatia. A large number of Jews lived there, and they had established a synagogue where they studied the Books of Moses, the Law, and the prophets. Paul and Barnabas had been with the brethren at Antioch, which is located now in southern Turkey on the Mediterranean Sea.
While some disciples were praying and fasting, the Holy Spirit said to them, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”
So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off. Saul, who is also called by his Roman name, Paul, became an Apostle at this point. He and Barnabas were set apart, meaning consecrated, and they were sent out with the good news. This is the first missionary journey for and Barnabas and Paul.
The officials of the synagogue asked if Paul or Barnabas might say a few words of exhortation, which is very much like a sermon, and Paul rose to the occasion. He began to speak to them a message of salvation.Paul started by telling them of the events that transpired in Jerusalem, how Jesus was rejected and condemned to death, and how God had raised him from the dead.
He goes on to show how this was to fulfill the prophecy of Holy Scripture, thus backing up the story with authority, which was very important to the Jews. It also showed the Greeks that this was no new and modern religion, but it is the ancient faith of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob, fulfilled by the coming of the Messiah, Jesus, the Son of God.
The Greeks did not trust anything modern. For something to have authority and to be worthy of trust it had to be ancient, to have stood the test of time.
Oddly enough, many people today only trust things that are modern, and reject things that are ancient, regarding them as archaic. They think for anything to be good it must be progressive.
For us, and our Church, if something is to be regarded as truth, it must have stood the test of time. It must be the unchanging truth of God. St. Paul built upon the ancient faith of Israel, and its longing for the Messiah. He wrote, “Therefore, my friends, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin, a justification you were not able to obtain under the law of Moses.” The Law of Moses was very strict, and it only started with the Ten Commandments. Over the years many more were added on to the point that very few had any hope of being justified by obeying the Laws.
Jesus tried to tell them that it was impossible to be saved by the Law. He told them: “If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.” (From Matthew 5.) In other words, it was impossible for anyone to live up to its precepts. Paul proclaimed that it is not necessary to maim yourself to be justified because Jesus did paid the price of our punishment for us.
He was beaten and scourged so we would not need it. He was crucified for our sins. By his wounds we are healed. But is did not end there. On the third day he rose from the dead. Death could not hold him. He defeated death for ever. This is why we celebrate his death and resurrection.
Paul’s conversion is evidence of the resurrection. Before his encounter with Jesus on the road to Emmaus, he persecuted the church, but after, he was the greatest missionary of them all.
My own conversion is evidence of the resurrection. For years, I wandered through life chasing fun and exciting times. I wasn’t interested in what Jesus could do for me. I was interested in what everybody else could do for me. I was running fast toward my own destruction. Thanks be to God, the Father did not give up on me! He had plans for me. He led me into a relationship with a wonderful help mate who would become a partner in ministry. He led me to this little church in this small town where I could serve his people. I can see now that my life was all a preparation that led me to this moment. I just hope that I can continue to serve him as long as I can. This is what Jesus has done for me.
How has your life been changed by knowing Jesus? Can anyone look at your life and see the evidence of the resurrected Lord?
If so, will you proclaim the Good News of Salvation to anyone who asks. If not, will you seek to discover what Jesus is doing for you? Will you be a witness for the Lord? In many places in the world it is costly to proclaim Christ as Lord and Savior. Christians are persecuted for their faith all around the world. Here, not so much. Please remember the martyrs in your prayers. Here it is easy to be a Christian. It is easy to forget that we will all be held to account for our lives. Strive then, dear friends, to lead a life worthy of your calling. Amen.