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By JENNIFER BURGIN
Paul reached also Derbe and Lystra where there was a disciple named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek. The brothers in Lystra and Iconium spoke highly of him, and Paul wanted him to come along with him. .....As they traveled from city to city, they handed on to the people for observance the decisions reached by the Apostles and presbyters in Jerusalem. Day after day the churches grew stronger in faith and increased in number.
As I typed this meditation on the iPad Blogger app, I inadvertently hit a combo of keys and the words disappeared off the screen. Oh no! Autosave kill! Two days worth of work "poof" in a few seconds. (I guess the Holy Spirit didn't like my first draft.) Needless to say, technology isn't always a writer's best friend. Too bad I don't have a papyrus scroll and a reed pen like Saint Paul may have used. Note to Jennifer's cerebrum: Remember manual writing utensils! It'll prevent future re-write headaches.
From Saul to Paul Saint Paul is my favorite of all the Apostles. His quirky personality, dedication to Gentile ministry, and prolific letter writing established a lasting biblical legacy. He may not be an original disciple appointed by Jesus, but his zeal for the Word convinced the Apostles to accept him as one of their own.
I think of Saul, before his conversion, participating in an episode of Extreme Makeover: Come Home to Christ Edition. While bullying around Judea, Saul prided himself on being "the" enforcer of Judaic Law. He threatened, persecuted, and terrorized. He brought men and women to tears with his enmity. He hated with a passion. Then the amazing happened: Saul encountered The Risen Christ! It knocked him off his "high horse" causing a lack of sight. However, the "light" of Christ cured his spiritual blindness. Saul the Persecutor transformed into Paul the Evangelizer.
What if Paul asked you to join him on his preaching mission? Would you accept the challenge like Timothy, or would you run away like the naked man in the Garden of Gethsemane on the night of Jesus' arrest?
Travelin' Along What was travel like for Saint Paul? I imagine weeks and months in the desert's scorching heat, riding camels covered in flies or battling sea sickness and shipwrecks. Food, shelter and a place to sleep transient from town to town. Paul never knew who or what he'd encounter: a pagan with strange rituals, a clingy woman, an angry Greek, a possessed child or a Roman guard plotting murder. Some days were happy with miracles and baptisms followed by days of stone throwing and cries of blasphemy. Language barriers proved to be a constant challenge, too. What about money? Surely, wealthy followers deposited gold and silver coins into the tithing basket.
One thing Saint Paul counted on was the guidance of the Holy Spirit. This Spirit helped determine the right communities to reach out to and the ones to avoid. Furthermore, the Holy Spirit offered protection, easing travel burdens. Prayer and communion provided the courage necessary to remain on the proper Gospel track.
Our Own Observance Saint Paul worked with different cultures, traditions, languages, and temperaments throughout his travels. Some people opened themselves up to the message of Christ while others resisted the Truth. Many communities tried to observe Christ's teachings but failed over and over again. Fortunately, they didn't give up! Christian churches continued to flourish despite growing pains.
The Holy Spirit continues to guides us, but are we entirely open to its fruits? The Spirit breathes inside you and me. Do we feel it? It penetrates every crevice of nature. Do we see it? It shocks and mystifies. Do we accept it? The Advocate gently whispers in our ears, prompting us to follow the teachings of the Church and to be positive examples to others. Yes, our secular culture portrays Jesus as a fictional cartoon character or a man murdered centuries ago whose teachings are irrelevant in our sophisticated, modern world. Don't believe the lies!
What if Christ never existed? What if he never died on the cross for our salvation? How much worse off would the world be today? I think the world would be in utter chaos, possibly as bad as The Hunger Games.
In my daily rosary, I pray for peace. I pray for people to return to the Catholic Church who may have left years ago. I pray for religious freedom and protection of Christians against persecution. I pray for a softening of hearts so wounded by cruelty and injustice. Days when I'm tempted to whine and complain how bad life is, I focus on my blessings. God is good; in fact God is great! I'm sure Saint Paul at times struggled with his faith. He may have pitied himself when his preaching met up against hecklers, or the long travel left him fatigued. Yet, he persevered and continued on. He's a fine example of thesaying: Put on the mind of Christ!
We all travel through life with upside downs, inside outs, and major turnarounds. We mayfeel like Catholicism is slowly being destroyed. Rest assured: The Holy Spirit iswatching and protecting! Just like the Spirit helped Saint Paul and the Apostles, it helpsChristians today survive adversity. God will prevail!
"Father, you protect and strengthen those who hope in you; you heard the cry of your Son and kept him in your tent in the day of evil. Grant that your servants who seek your face in times of trouble may see your goodness in the land of the living."
-Liturgy of the Hours, Psalter Week I, Wednesday Evening Prayer
This meditation was written by Jennifer Burgin, a Lay Dominican associated with St. Albert the Great Priory in Irving, TX. Please visit her blog: Jennifer's Spectrum of Spirituality