In those days, some Jews from Antioch and Iconium
arrived and won over the crowds.
They stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city,
supposing that he was dead.
But when the disciples gathered around him,
he got up and entered the city.
On the following day he left with Barnabas for Derbe.
After they had proclaimed the good news to that city
and made a considerable number of disciples,
they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch.
They strengthened the spirits of the disciples
and exhorted them to persevere in the faith, saying,
“It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships
to enter the Kingdom of God.” They appointed presbyters for them in each Church and,
with prayer and fasting, commended them to the Lord
in whom they had put their faith.
Then they traveled through Pisidia and reached Pamphylia.
After proclaiming the word at Perga they went down to Attalia.
From there they sailed to Antioch,
where they had been commended to the grace of God
for the work they had now accomplished.
And when they arrived, they called the Church together
and reported what God had done with them
and how he had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles.
Then they spent no little time with the disciples.
I am struck as I read this passage from the Acts of the Apostles. They stoned Paul, dragged him out of the city and left him for dead. His fellow disciples gathered around him and he went right back into the city to continue spreading the Good News. Wow! Could I be that brave?
That sounds like a championship heavyweight boxer who gets knocked down and keeps getting up. But this is something more incredible! Paul literally had stones thrown at him! This was not a sport. This is a man that people hated for the message that he was preaching. He knew that if he continued preaching Jesus’ name, he most likely would die. This is a man full of the Holy Spirit and nothing was going to stop him from sharing the news of Jesus Christ raised from the dead.
I had the opportunity to travel to Colorado for my nephew’s Confirmation a few years ago. The bishop was preaching about the gifts of the Holy Spirit. He focused for a while on the gift of courage – that the Holy Spirit had given the early disciples of Jesus the gift of courage after the first Pentecost. They preached the Good News of Jesus Christ raised from the dead without fear and without counting the costs. Our faith is being persecuted today. We live in a world that is more and more hostile to the Christian message. And we must pray for the courage of the Holy Spirit to share our faith in an environment that is not always friendly or open to the Gospel.
“It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God.” I’m sure we never thought we would have stones thrown at us for our faith, but we never know… What would keep you from sharing the love of Jesus Christ with others? Sometimes we don’t share our faith with others because they might think poorly of us or they might laugh at us. Or maybe we are afraid of losing a friend. Maybe someone will think we are a “Jesus freak”. What am I willing to sacrifice for Jesus?
When you feel this way, think about what St. Paul did many years ago. Think about what all of the martyrs have done throughout the ages.
What keeps me from sharing my faith?
Do I fear rejection or persecution?
Do I need to learn more about my faith so I can defend it?
May we be bold witnesses (martyr means witness) to our faith in the risen Christ and may we share His love with everyone we meet – using words or actions.