Paul and his went by sea from Paphos to Perga in Pamphylia where John left them to go back to Jerusalem. The others carried on from Perga till they reached Antioch in Pisidia.
Every Eastertide season, I appreciate the chance to read the Acts of the Apostles through the mass readings. The passages are filled with such dynamism and drama that some almost resemble a present-day action movie; and although my eyes glaze over slightly with the geographical details provided, it does illustrate the authenticity of Luke’s account, as well as the astonishing extent of the apostles’ missionary work.
I also wonder how the apostles planned their journeys. Based on mentions throughout the text, it would seem as if they constantly sought direction from the Holy Spirit, which I find quite daunting. Though I always try to pray about my plans, it often feels as if my decisions are primarily based on ‘earthly’ factors, like my own emotions or others’ advice or the circumstances of the situation. I don’t recall deciding on an action based on a “voice from heaven” or words suddenly appearing before my eyes (which, truth be told, would probably terrify me).
Another aspect of the apostles which I find both intimidating and inspiring is their absolute transformation. In today’s Gospel passage, Paul starts his address to the synagogue with a boldness based on both thorough knowledge of scripture and firm conviction in Jesus, whom he had never met in person. Elsewhere, I marvel at how apostles like Peter transformed from self-centred or doubtful followers who had their own misguided expectations of who Jesus was (and even denied knowing Him), to fearless evangelisers who could even rejoice at being whipped for proclaiming the Good News (?!). Even if I manage to fully embrace the new life of Easter, could I ever be like them (and do I even want to be)?
But a closer look at today’s first reading hints that the apostles perhaps remained just as human as they were portrayed in the Gospels. At this stage of Paul’s journey, John (understood to be John called Mark, who would eventually write the Gospel of Mark) left him for unexplained reasons. This would later lead to a disagreement between Paul and Barnabas (Acts 15) and a split between them in their missionary journeys. Such an incident, slightly jarring amid the numerous triumphant achievements, would nonetheless be quite natural, amid the early Church’s teething problems (and might still occur in the established Church). The fact that Luke included it seems to be a reassuring reminder that our Lord is aware of the very human struggles we all face in following Him.
So perhaps I should take a slightly different perspective to Acts this year, to better appreciate our Lord’s patience and plans, as well as His hand in situations which go well and situations which don’t. As we get ready for Pentecost, perhaps I should also be more open to the Holy Spirit’s prompting. I suppose I have to take heed from a priest who once told me that we have to get to know our Lord better and spend more time with Him in order to love and recognise Him more.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Jaclyn Lam)
Prayer: We pray for the grace to be open to the Holy Spirit and to accept that we are called in different ways to play different roles.
Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the apostles’ courage, diligence and perseverance to build the Church and sustain it throughout the centuries.
Leave a Reply