Opening Doors

doorThursday, May 21st, 2009

Acts 14:20-27 (Epistle)

20 However, when the disciples gathered around him, he rose up and went into the city. And the next day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe. 21 And when they had preached the gospel to that city and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, 22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.” 23 So when they had appointed elders in every church, and prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed. 24 And after they had passed through Pisidia, they came to Pamphylia. 25 Now when they had preached the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia. 26 From there they sailed to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work which they had completed. 27 Now when they had come and gathered the church together, they reported all that God had done with them, and that He had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles.

The Work of the Disciples

This reading picks up after St. Paul had just healed a man from Lystra who was crippled from birth. The people misconstrue the disciples as gods who have appeared before them in the form of men and try to offer them sacrifices. The reaction of the people caused much dismay and frustration for the disciples (they ripped their clothes as a sign of grief and unbelief). The disciples earnestly tried to explain how it was Jesus Christ who was working through them. This must have caught the attention of the Jews who were visiting from Antioch and Iconium because they convinced the people to stone St. Paul. He was dumped outside the city gates presumed dead. Yet, when the other disciples “gathered about him, he rose up and entered the city.”

We must ask ourselves, “What was Paul thinking?” Why would he enter back into the city after barely escaping with his life. The next morning he went on with Barnabus to Derbe. It is there that after they preached the gospel that “they had made many disciples.” Great; but then we read on  that immediately after they “returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch.” Huh? Lystra is the town where St. Paul healed the cripple and ended up getting almost stoned to death by the persuasion of the Jews visiting from Iconium and Antioch!

So many of us fear the possibility of conflict. Just the thought of it may cause a queasy stomach. Yet St. Paul is not afraid to meet it head-on with his fellow disciples. But not before St. Paul strengthened the souls of the disciples and professed that “through many tribulations we must enter the Kingdom of God.” St. Paul understood clearly that the preaching of the Gospel and the everyday trials of life that come from the kerygma (preaching/proclamation) cannot be separated from the message it proclaims. Rather it should be embraced! For God so loved the world that He sent His only Son so that He may endure us, endure the cross, opening to us the gates of Paradise.  The disciples went on establishing the faith. They travelled through Pisidia, Pamphylia, Perga, Attalia, and finally reaching Antioch. They reported to all of the Church how God blessed their work and “opened the door of faith” to the Gentiles. St. Paul and the disciples opened doors of faith to others not just by words, but by enduring others; being for them the very image of Christ. They were willing to endure the demands and abuse of others for the Gospel’s sake. For it is the Gospel. It opens doors.

But What Does This Have to do with Community

This Blog is supposed to be about dealing with one another in a community. Whether it be a community of people in recovery, a community of believers like a Church, or even a small family. The Christian dynamics should not change. So what does today’s reading have to do with relating to others as a communty? I would say that where two or three are gathered in the name of God, we have a community. True community is the work of God with Him in the midst of it. Our Lord sent His disciples out “two by two before His face into every city.” St. Paul arose and did God’s work surrounded by the diciples. St. Paul departed to Derbe not alone but with Barnabus; a community of two. We also must do God’s work as a community. There is no other way about it. I hear people say they can know God by being alone with nature, like fishing; or by meditating at home alone. They say they don’t need “church” or “organized religion.” They look at the fallen nature of their fellow humans and see them as an obstacle to knowing God, of actually perverting the knowledge of God. Maybe they are partly afraid of conflict. Afraid of accepting the fact that we are all on equal ground in the eyes of God. Accepting the fact that we do not hold the secret combination to open the Gates of the Kingdom.

God himself is One but He is also a community of Three – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. One in essence and being, yet individual in person and activity, working in perfect harmony. If the very Godhead itself is a harmony of persons, perhaps we can come to the knowledge of God through cultivating harmony with others. By enduring their shortcomings and torment we more importantly may open to them the door of faith.

  • Conflict should not be feared but seen as an opportunity to be an example of Christian charity, compassion, patience, and love.
  • Conflict is not resolved by determining who is right and who is wrong but through compassion.
  • Remember God is always bigger than our problems.
  • “So if you are standing before the altar in the Temple, offering a sacrifice to God, and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there beside the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God” (Matt. 5:23).
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