Author Archives: Darryl Williams

About Darryl Williams

Skeptical Observer Looking for Permanent Fixes

May 27 – St. Paul’s Farewell Address to Ephesian Priests

There is a very nice map here explaining how St. Paul could have been “escorted to” a ship at Miletus in the first century but would be a few kilometers from the nearest port today. And here is a little idea from Google Maps of how difficult it was for those Ephesian priests to get to Miletus for St. Paul’s farewell speech. It is clear that he and they were very important to each other.

As Father Linsky pointed out, St. Paul’s final words to the priests from Ephesus could be abbreviated to, You have all you need. Now get to work. Or, in St. Paul’s words, “I did not shrink from proclaiming to you the entire plan of God. Keep watch over yourselves and over all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers...”

The main thing we have received is the Holy Spirit, promised to us by Jesus. Todays reading from the Office of Readings is an excerpt from Vatican II Lumen Gentium, paragraphs 4 and 12, on The Mission of the Holy Spirit in the Church. (Full of powerful truths but could perhaps use some editing.) Below are key points I get from it about what the Holy Spirit does and what we the people of God are to do in response.

The Holy Spirit…

  1. Provides continual sanctification
  2. Provides access through Christ to the Father
  3. Gives life to the Church
  4. Prays on behalf of the Church
  5. Guides the Church
  6. Unifies in Communion and in works of ministry
  7. Equips and directs with gifts of the Spirit, according to his will
  8. Makes us fit for our calling
  9. Adorns with fruits of the Spirit
  10. Makes the Church keep the freshness of youth
  11. Renews the Church
  12. Makes the Church one with the unity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
  13. Arouses and sustains the Spirit of truth
  14. Makes us fit for our calling

The holy people of God…

  1. Share in Christ’s office
  2. Spread a living witness to Christ
  3. Offer a sacrifice of praise
  4. Receive the gifts of the Spirit with thanksgiving
  5. Exercise supernatural discernment in matters of faith
  6. Agree in matters of faith and morals
  7. Adhere to the faith given once and for all to the saints
    1. Penetrate it more deeply
    2. Apply it more fully

I’m sure I missed a few points…

Artemis and Ephesus

But back to world history, false gods, and geography.

Very informative article about the town and the goddess in Britannica. Covers many of the facts Fr. Linsky mentioned. 

And just to give some feel for the challenges Paul faced in Ephesus, here is a small shot of the statue of the goddess Artemis. I had no idea…

 

 

 

 

St. Paul’s Story, as told by St. Luke

This narrative is not Sacred Scripture, but it contains many words and sentences from Sacred Scripture, all from Chapters 7 – 20 of the Acts of the Apostles, NAB. It begins with Saul’s approval of the martyrdom of Stephen, his persecution of Christians, his conversion to Christianity, and continues with his missionary journeys, speeches, and testimony to both Jews and Gentiles. It ends at the beginning of Paul’s last trip back to Jerusalem where he would be imprisoned, never to enjoy freedom again but always proclaiming and being faithful to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Some sections of those chapters not directly related to Paul are omitted. For example, discussion of Apollos, the Jerusalem Council meeting, stories about Peter, Philip, and John, encounters with magicians and silversmiths, etc. The point is, as Fr. Linsky suggested, to enjoy and learn from the story of Paul’s ministry, read in its entirety.

Verse and chapter divisions are omitted since they sometimes hinder the flow of the narrative and complicate reading for pure pleasure and inspiration. After all, the first Bibles with complete chapter and verse divisions were printed in the 1500’s. We can read the history of those innovations here.

Finally, sometimes I have replaced pronouns with names of persons just to make sure references are clear.

By the way, St Paul was definitely an adherent of the stoic philosophy, always concerned about virtuous and simple living. Epicureans, on the other hand, were primarily interested in avoiding pain and seeking pleasure.

As the Story Begins, Saul is Persecuting the Church, the Body of Jesus Christ – Acts 7

They threw him (Stephen, the first Martyr) out of the city and began to stone him. The witnesses laid down their cloaks at the feet of a young man named Saul (Saul is Hebrew, Paul is Roman).

As they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell to his knees and cried out in a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them”; and when he said this, he fell asleep. Now Saul was consenting to his execution.

On that day, there broke out a severe persecution of the church in Jerusalem, and all were scattered throughout the countryside of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. Devout men buried Stephen and made a loud lament over him.

Saul, meanwhile, was trying to destroy the church; entering house after house and dragging out men and women, he handed them over for imprisonment. Those who had been scattered went about preaching the word.

Saul, still breathing murderous threats against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, that, if he should find any men or women who belonged to the Way, he might bring them back to Jerusalem in chains.

Saul Has a Damascus Road Experience – Acts 9

On his journey, as Saul was nearing Damascus, a light from the sky suddenly flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”

He said, “Who are you, sir?” The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. Now get up and go into the city and you will be told what you must do.” The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, for they heard the voice but could see no one.

Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes, he could see nothing; so they led him by the hand and brought him to Damascus. For three days he was unable to see, and he neither ate nor drank.

There was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias, and the Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” He answered, “Here I am, Lord.” The Lord said to him, “Get up and go to the street called Straight and ask at the house of Judas for a man from Tarsus named Saul. He is there praying, and (in a vision) he has seen a man named Ananias come in and lay (his) hands on him, that he may regain his sight.”

But Ananias replied, “Lord, I have heard from many sources about this man, what evil things he has done to your holy ones in Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the chief priests to imprison all who call upon your name.” But the Lord said to him, “Go, for this man is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before Gentiles, kings, and Israelites, and I will show him what he will have to suffer for my name.”

So Ananias went and entered the house; laying his hands on him, he said, “Saul, my brother, the Lord has sent me, Jesus who appeared to you on the way by which you came, that you may regain your sight and be filled with the holy Spirit.” Immediately things like scales fell from his eyes and he regained his sight. He got up and was baptized, and when he had eaten, he recovered his strength.

Saul Begins His Missionary Work in Damascus – Acts 9

Saul stayed some days with the disciples in Damascus, and he began at once to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God. All who heard him were astounded and said, “Is not this the man who in Jerusalem ravaged those who call upon this name, and came here expressly to take them back in chains to the chief priests?” But Saul grew all the stronger and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus, proving that this is the Messiah.

After a long time had passed, the Jews conspired to kill him, but their plot became known to Saul. Now they were keeping watch on the gates day and night so as to kill him, but his disciples took him one night and let him down through an opening in the wall, lowering him in a basket.

Saul Returns to Jerusalem, Now on the Other Side – Acts 9

When Saul arrived in Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he was a disciple. Then Barnabas took charge of him and brought him to the apostles, and he reported to them how on the way he had seen the Lord and that he had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had spoken out boldly in the name of Jesus. He moved about freely with them in Jerusalem and spoke out boldly in the name of the Lord. He also spoke and debated with the Hellenists, but they tried to kill him. And when the brothers learned of this, they took him down to Caesarea and sent him on his way to Tarsus.

Barnabas and Saul Form a Partnership – Acts 12

Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a large number of people, and it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called Christians.

At that time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch, and one of them named Agabus stood up and predicted by the Spirit that there would be a severe famine all over the world, and it happened under Claudius.  So the disciples determined that, according to ability, each should send relief to the brothers who lived in Judea. This they did, sending it to the presbyters in care of Barnabas and Saul. After Barnabas and Saul completed their relief mission, they returned to Jerusalem, taking with them John, who is called Mark.

Barnabas and Saul Get a Special Assignment – Paul’s 1st Journey – Acts 13

Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Symeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen who was a close friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.  While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then, completing their fasting and prayer, they laid hands on them and sent them off. So they, sent forth by the holy Spirit, went down to Seleucia and from there sailed to Cyprus.  When they arrived in Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the Jewish synagogues. They had John also as their assistant.

Paphos: Magician Challenged, Sergius Paulus Converted – Acts 13

When they had traveled through the whole island as far as Paphos, they met a magician named Bar-Jesus who was a Jewish false prophet. He was with the proconsul Sergius Paulus, a man of intelligence, who had summoned Barnabas and Saul and wanted to hear the word of God. But Elymas the magician (for that is what his name means) opposed them in an attempt to turn the proconsul away from the faith. But Saul, also known as Paul, filled with the holy Spirit, looked intently at him and said, “You son of the devil, you enemy of all that is right, full of every sort of deceit and fraud. Will you not stop twisting the straight paths of (the) Lord? Even now the hand of the Lord is upon you. You will be blind, and unable to see the sun for a time.”

Immediately a dark mist fell upon the magician, and he went about seeking people to lead him by the hand. When the proconsul saw what had happened, he came to believe, for he was astonished by the teaching about the Lord.

Antioch in Pisidia – Paul Proclaims the Gospel – Division and Expulsion – Acts 13

From Paphos, Paul and his companions set sail and arrived at Perga in Pamphylia. But John left them and returned to Jerusalem. They continued on from Perga and reached Antioch in Pisidia. On the sabbath they entered the synagogue and took their seats.

After the reading of the law and the prophets, the synagogue officials sent word to them, “My brothers, if one of you has a word of exhortation for the people, please speak.” So Paul got up, motioned with his hand, and said,

The Gospel Message, Long Version

“Fellow Israelites and you others who are God-fearing, listen. The God of this people Israel chose our ancestors and exalted the people during their sojourn in the land of Egypt. With uplifted arm he led them out of it and for about forty years he put up with them in the desert. When he had destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan, he gave them their land as an inheritance at the end of about four hundred and fifty years.

After these things he provided judges up to Samuel (the) prophet. Then they asked for a king. God gave them Saul, son of Kish, a man from the tribe of Benjamin, for forty years. Then he removed him and raised up David as their king; of him he testified, ‘I have found David, son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will carry out my every wish.’

From David’s descendants God, according to his promise, has brought to Israel a savior, Jesus. John heralded his coming by proclaiming a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel; and as John was completing his course, he would say, ‘What do you suppose that I am? I am not he. Behold, one is coming after me; I am not worthy to unfasten the sandals of his feet.’

“My brothers, children of the family of Abraham, and those others among you who are God-fearing, to us this word of salvation has been sent. The inhabitants of Jerusalem and their leaders failed to recognize him, and by condemning him they fulfilled the oracles of the prophets that are read sabbath after sabbath. For even though they found no grounds for a death sentence, they asked Pilate to have him put to death, and when they had accomplished all that was written about him, they took him down from the tree and placed him in a tomb. But God raised him from the dead, and for many days he appeared to those who had come up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem. These are (now) his witnesses before the people.

We ourselves are proclaiming this good news to you that what God promised our ancestors he has brought to fulfillment for us, (their) children, by raising up Jesus, as it is written in the second psalm, ‘You are my son; this day I have begotten you.’ And that he raised him from the dead never to return to corruption he declared in this way, ‘I shall give you the benefits assured to David.’ That is why he also says in another psalm, ‘You will not suffer your holy one to see corruption.’

Now David, after he had served the will of God in his lifetime, fell asleep, was gathered to his ancestors, and did see corruption. But the one whom God raised up did not see corruption. You must know, my brothers, that through him forgiveness of sins is being proclaimed to you, (and) in regard to everything from which you could not be justified under the law of Moses, in him every believer is justified.

Be careful, then, that what was said in the prophets not come about: ‘Look on, you scoffers, be amazed and disappear. For I am doing a work in your days, a work that you will never believe even if someone tells you.'”


As they were leaving, they invited them to speak on these subjects the following sabbath. After the congregation had dispersed, many Jews and worshipers who were converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who spoke to them and urged them to remain faithful to the grace of God.

On the following sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. When the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and with violent abuse contradicted what Paul said. Both Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly and said, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken to you first, but since you reject it and condemn yourselves as unworthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles. For so the Lord has commanded us, ‘I have made you a light to the Gentiles, that you may be an instrument of salvation to the ends of the earth.'”

The Gentiles were delighted when they heard this and glorified the word of the Lord. All who were destined for eternal life came to believe, and the word of the Lord continued to spread through the whole region.

The Jews, however, incited the women of prominence who were worshipers and the leading men of the city, stirred up a persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their territory.  So they shook the dust from their feet in protest against them and went to Iconium. The disciples were filled with joy and the holy Spirit.

Iconium – Many Believers and a Divided City – Acts 14

In Iconium they entered the Jewish synagogue together and spoke in such a way that a great number of both Jews and Greeks came to believe, although the disbelieving Jews stirred up and poisoned the minds of the Gentiles against the brothers. So they stayed for a considerable period, speaking out boldly for the Lord, who confirmed the word about his grace by granting signs and wonders to occur through their hands. The people of the city were divided: some were with the Jews; others, with the apostles. When there was an attempt by both the Gentiles and the Jews, together with their leaders, to attack and stone them, they realized it and fled to the Lycaonian cities of Lystra and Derbe and to the surrounding countryside, where they continued to proclaim the good news.

Lystra – Crippled Man Healed; Paul Learns What it is Like to be Stoned – Acts 14

At Lystra there was a crippled man, lame from birth, who had never walked. He listened to Paul speaking, who looked intently at him, saw that he had the faith to be healed, and called out in a loud voice, “Stand up straight on your feet.” He jumped up and began to walk about.

When the crowds saw what Paul had done, they cried out in Lycaonian, “The gods have come down to us in human form.” They called Barnabas “Zeus” and Paul “Hermes,” because he was the chief speaker. And the priest of Zeus, whose temple was at the entrance to the city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates, for he together with the people intended to offer sacrifice.

The apostles Barnabas and Paul tore their garments when they heard this and rushed out into the crowd, shouting, “Men, why are you doing this? We are of the same nature as you, human beings. We proclaim to you good news that you should turn from these idols to the living God, ‘who made heaven and earth and sea and all that is in them.’

In past generations he allowed all Gentiles to go their own ways; yet, in bestowing his goodness, he did not leave himself without witness, for he gave you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons and filled you with nourishment and gladness for your hearts.” Even with these words, they scarcely restrained the crowds from offering sacrifice to them.

However, 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.

Building the Church – Repeat Visits

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.

Back in Antioch – Paul’s 1st Journey Ended – Acts 14

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.  Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch, teaching and proclaiming with many others the word of the Lord.

Paul’s 2nd Journey Proposed – Acts 15

After some time, Paul said to Barnabas, “Come, let us make a return visit to see how the brothers are getting on in all the cities where we proclaimed the word of the Lord.”

Barnabas wanted to take with them also John, who was called Mark, but Paul insisted that they should not take with them someone who had deserted them at Pamphylia and who had not continued with them in their work.

So sharp was their disagreement that they separated. Barnabas took Mark and sailed to Cyprus. But Paul chose Silas and departed after being commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord.

Timothy Joins Paul – Acts 16

Paul traveled through Syria and Cilicia bringing strength to the churches. He 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. On account of the Jews of that region, Paul had him circumcised, for they all knew that his father was a Greek.

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 (about circumcision). Day after day the churches grew stronger in faith and increased in number. They traveled through the Phrygian and Galatian territory because they had been prevented by the holy Spirit from preaching the message in the province of Asia.

Decision to Go to Macedonia

When they came to Mysia, they tried to go on into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them, so they crossed through Mysia and came down to Troas. During (the) night Paul had a vision. A Macedonian stood before him and implored him with these words, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” When he had seen the vision, we (Luke with Paul? Some controversy among Bible scholars.) sought passage to Macedonia at once, concluding that God had called us to proclaim the good news to them.

Imprisoned in Philippi

We set sail from Troas, making a straight run for Samothrace, and on the next day to Neapolis, and from there to Philippi, a leading city in that district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We spent some time in that city.

On the sabbath we went outside the city gate along the river where we thought there would be a place of prayer. We sat and spoke with the women who had gathered there. One of them, a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth, from the city of Thyatira, a worshiper of God, listened, and the Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what Paul was saying.  After she and her household had been baptized, she offered us an invitation, “If you consider me a believer in the Lord, come and stay at my home,” and she prevailed on us.

As we were going to the place of prayer, we met a slave girl with an oracular spirit, who used to bring a large profit to her owners through her fortune-telling. She began to follow Paul and us, shouting, “These people are slaves of the Most High God, who proclaim to you a way of salvation.”  She did this for many days.

Paul became annoyed, turned, and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” Then it came out at that moment. When her owners saw that their hope of profit was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them to the public square before the local authorities. They brought them before the magistrates and said, “These people are Jews and are disturbing our city and are advocating customs that are not lawful for us Romans to adopt or practice.”

The crowd joined in the attack on them and the magistrates had them stripped and ordered them to be beaten with rods. After inflicting many blows on them, they threw them into prison and instructed the jailer to guard them securely. When the jailer received these instructions, he put them in the innermost cell and secured their feet to a stake.

About midnight, while Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God as the prisoners listened, there was suddenly such a severe earthquake that the foundations of the jail shook; all the doors flew open, and the chains of all were pulled loose. When the jailer woke up and saw the prison doors wide open, he drew (his) sword and was about to kill himself, thinking that the prisoners had escaped.

But Paul shouted out in a loud voice, “Do no harm to yourself; we are all here.” The jailer asked for a light and rushed in and, trembling with fear, he fell down before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you and your household will be saved.” So they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to everyone in his house. He took them in at that hour of the night and bathed their wounds; then he and all his family were baptized at once.  He brought them up into his house and provided a meal and with his household rejoiced at having come to faith in God.

But when it was day, the magistrates sent the lictors with the order, “Release those men.” The jailer reported the (se) words to Paul, “The magistrates have sent orders that you be released. Now, then, come out and go in peace.” But Paul said to them, “They have beaten us publicly, even though we are Roman citizens and have not been tried and have thrown us into prison. And now, are they going to release us secretly? By no means. Let them come themselves and lead us out.”

The lictors reported these words to the magistrates, and they became alarmed when they heard that they were Roman citizens. So they came and placated them and led them out and asked that they leave the city. When they had come out of the prison, they went to Lydia’s house where they saw and encouraged the brothers, and then they left.

Thessalonica – “Worthless Men” Drag Jason Out of His House – Acts 17

When they took the road through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they reached Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. Following his usual custom, Paul joined them, and for three sabbaths he entered into discussions with them from the scriptures, expounding and demonstrating that the Messiah had to suffer and rise from the dead, and that “This is the Messiah, Jesus, whom I proclaim to you.”

Some of them were convinced and joined Paul and Silas; so, too, a great number of Greeks who were worshipers, and not a few of the prominent women. But the Jews became jealous and recruited some worthless men loitering in the public square, formed a mob, and set the city in turmoil. They marched on the house of Jason, intending to bring them before the people’s assembly.

When they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some of the brothers before the city magistrates, shouting, “These people who have been creating a disturbance all over the world have now come here, and Jason has welcomed them. They all act in opposition to the decrees of Caesar and claim instead that there is another king, Jesus.” They stirred up the crowd and the city magistrates who, upon hearing these charges, took a surety payment from Jason and the others before releasing them.

Beroea – Fair Minded Scripture Searchers

The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas to Beroea during the night. Upon arrival they went to the synagogue of the Jews. These Jews were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with all willingness and examined the scriptures daily to determine whether these things were so. Many of them became believers, as did not a few of the influential Greek women and men.

But when the Jews of Thessalonica learned that the word of God had now been proclaimed by Paul in Beroea also, they came there too to cause a commotion and stir up the crowds. So the brothers at once sent Paul on his way to the seacoast, while Silas and Timothy remained behind.

Athens

After Paul’s escorts had taken him to Athens, they came away with instructions for Silas and Timothy to join him as soon as possible.

While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he grew exasperated at the sight of the city full of idols. So he debated in the synagogue with the Jews and with the worshipers, and daily in the public square with whoever happened to be there. Even some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers engaged him in discussion. Some asked, “What is this scavenger trying to say?” Others said, “He sounds like a promoter of foreign deities,” because he was preaching about ‘Jesus’ and ‘Resurrection.’

They took him and led him to the Areopagus and said, “May we learn what this new teaching is that you speak of? For you bring some strange notions to our ears; we should like to know what these things mean.”

Now all the Athenians as well as the foreigners residing there used their time for nothing else but telling or hearing something new. Then Paul stood up at the Areopagus and said:

“You Athenians, I see that in every respect you are very religious. For as I walked around looking carefully at your shrines, I even discovered an altar inscribed, ‘To an Unknown God.’ What therefore you unknowingly worship, I proclaim to you.

The God who made the world and all that is in it, the Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in sanctuaries made by human hands, nor is he served by human hands because he needs anything. Rather it is he who gives to everyone life and breath and everything.

He made from one the whole human race to dwell on the entire surface of the earth, and he fixed the ordered seasons and the boundaries of their regions, so that people might seek God, even perhaps grope for him and find him, though indeed he is not far from any one of us. For ‘In him we live and move and have our being,’ as even some of your poets have said, ‘For we too are his offspring.’

Since therefore we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the divinity is like an image fashioned from gold, silver, or stone by human art and imagination. God has overlooked the times of ignorance, but now he demands that all people everywhere repent because he has established a day on which he will ‘judge the world with justice’ through a man he has appointed, and he has provided confirmation for all by raising him from the dead.” 

When they heard about resurrection of the dead, some began to scoff, but others said, “We should like to hear you on this some other time.” And so Paul left them.  34 But some did join him and became believers. Among them were Dionysius, a member of the Court of the Areopagus, a woman named Damaris, and others with them.

Corinth – Acts 18

After this he left Athens and went to Corinth. There he met a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla because Claudius had ordered all the Jews to leave Rome. He went to visit them and, because he practiced the same trade, stayed with them and worked, for they were tentmakers by trade. Every sabbath, he entered into discussions in the synagogue, attempting to convince both Jews and Greeks.

When Silas and Timothy came down from Macedonia, Paul began to occupy himself totally with preaching the word, testifying to the Jews that the Messiah was Jesus. When they opposed him and reviled him, he shook out his garments and said to them, “Your blood be on your heads! I am clear of responsibility. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.”

So he left there and went to a house belonging to a man named Titus Justus, a worshiper of God; his house was next to a synagogue. Crispus, the synagogue official, came to believe in the Lord along with his entire household, and many of the Corinthians who heard believed and were baptized. One night in a vision the Lord said to Paul, “Do not be afraid. Go on speaking, and do not be silent, for I am with you. No one will attack and harm you, for I have many people in this city.” He settled there for a year and a half and taught the word of God among them.

Synagogue Official Attacked and Beaten

But when Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews rose up together against Paul and brought him to the tribunal, saying, “This man is inducing people to worship God contrary to the law.” When Paul was about to reply, Gallio spoke to the Jews, “If it were a matter of some crime or malicious fraud, I should with reason hear the complaint of you Jews; but since it is a question of arguments over doctrine and titles and your own law, see to it yourselves. I do not wish to be a judge of such matters.” And he drove them away from the tribunal. They all seized Sosthenes, the synagogue official, and beat him in full view of the tribunal. But none of this was of concern to Gallio.

On the Road Again

Paul remained for quite some time, and after saying farewell to the brothers he sailed for Syria, together with Priscilla and Aquila. At Cenchreae he had his hair cut because he had taken a vow. When they reached Ephesus, he left them there, while he entered the synagogue and held discussions with the Jews.

Although they asked him to stay for a longer time, he did not consent, but as he said farewell he promised, “I shall come back to you again, God willing.” Then he set sail from Ephesus. Upon landing at Caesarea, he went up and greeted the church and then went down to Antioch. After staying there some time, he left and traveled in orderly sequence through the Galatian country and Phrygia, bringing strength to all the disciples.

Ephesus – Acts 19

While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul traveled through the interior of the country and came (down) to Ephesus where he found some disciples. He said to them, “Did you receive the holy Spirit when you became believers?” They answered him, “We have never even heard that there is a holy Spirit.” He said, “How were you baptized?” They replied, “With the baptism of John.” Paul then said, “John baptized with a baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, in Jesus.” When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul laid (his) hands on them, the holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. Altogether there were about twelve men.

He entered the synagogue, and for three months debated boldly with persuasive arguments about the kingdom of God. But when some in their obstinacy and disbelief disparaged the Way before the assembly, he withdrew and took his disciples with him and began to hold daily discussions in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. This continued for two years with the result that all the inhabitants of the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord, Jews and Greeks alike.

Paul Decides on a Return to Jerusalem and a Visit to Rome

Thus did the word of the Lord continue to spread with influence and power. When this was concluded, Paul made up his mind to travel through Macedonia and Achaia, and then to go on to Jerusalem, saying, “After I have been there, I must visit Rome also.” Then he sent to Macedonia two of his assistants, Timothy and Erastus, while he himself stayed for a while in the province of Asia.

Paul had the disciples summoned and, after encouraging them, he bade them farewell and set out on his journey to Macedonia. As he traveled throughout those regions, he provided many words of encouragement for them. Then he arrived in Greece, where he stayed for three months.

But when a plot was made against him by the Jews as he was about to set sail for Syria, he decided to return by way of Macedonia. Several went ahead to Troas, but we sailed from Philippi after the feast of Unleavened Bread, and rejoined them five days later in Troas, where we spent a week.

Long Sermon has Major Impact on Eutychus – Acts 20

On the first day of the week when we gathered to break bread, Paul spoke to them because he was going to leave on the next day, and he kept on speaking until midnight. There were many lamps in the upstairs room where we were gathered, and a young man named Eutychus who was sitting on the windowsill was sinking into a deep sleep as Paul talked on and on. Once overcome by sleep, he fell down from the third story and when he was picked up, he was dead.

Paul went down, threw himself upon him, and said as he embraced him, “Don’t be alarmed; there is life in him.” Then he returned upstairs, broke the bread, and ate; after a long conversation that lasted until daybreak, he departed. And they took the boy away alive and were immeasurably comforted.

We went ahead to the ship and set sail for Assos where we were to take Paul on board, as he had arranged, since he was going overland.  When he met us in Assos, we took him aboard and went on to Mitylene. We sailed away from there on the next day and reached a point off Chios, and a day later we reached Samos, and on the following day we arrived at Miletus. Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus in order not to lose time in the province of Asia, for he was hurrying to be in Jerusalem, if at all possible, for the day of Pentecost.

Farewell Speech to the Ephesians

From Miletus he had the presbyters of the church at Ephesus summoned. When they came to him, he addressed them, “You know how I lived among you the whole time from the day I first came to the province of Asia. I served the Lord with all humility and with the tears and trials that came to me because of the plots of the Jews, and I did not at all shrink from telling you what was for your benefit, or from teaching you in public or in your homes. I earnestly bore witness for both Jews and Greeks to repentance before God and to faith in our Lord Jesus.

But now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem. What will happen to me there I do not know, except that in one city after another the holy Spirit has been warning me that imprisonment and hardships await me. Yet I consider life of no importance to me, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to bear witness to the gospel of God’s grace.

“But now I know that none of you to whom I preached the kingdom during my travels will ever see my face again. And so I solemnly declare to you this day that I am not responsible for the blood of any of you, for I did not shrink from proclaiming to you the entire plan of God. Keep watch over yourselves and over the whole flock of which the holy Spirit has appointed you overseers, in which you tend the church of God that he acquired with his own blood. I know that after my departure savage wolves will come among you, and they will not spare the flock. And from your own group, men will come forward perverting the truth to draw the disciples away after them.

So be vigilant and remember that for three years, night and day, I unceasingly admonished each of you with tears. And now I commend you to God and to that gracious word of his that can build you up and give you the inheritance among all who are consecrated. I have never wanted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing. You know well that these very hands have served my needs and my companions.

In every way I have shown you that by hard work of that sort we must help the weak, and keep in mind the words of the Lord Jesus who himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.'”  When he had finished speaking, he knelt down and prayed with them all. They were all weeping loudly as they threw their arms around Paul and kissed him, for they were deeply distressed that he had said that they would never see his face again.

Then they escorted him to the ship.

The End

And then there are the last eight chapters of Acts covering Paul’s return to Jerusalem, his arrest, appeals, appearances before the Sanhedrin, Felix, Festus, and Agrippa, travel to Rome, shipwreck included, and the end of his career, two years in Rome, in his own lodging and at his own expense, proclaiming without hindrance the Kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ. He never gave up.

It should be noted that St. Paul, in his epistles, also wrote a lot of biography and personal history. So, there is more to be learned about the life of St. Paul than just what St. Luke wrote.

Proclaiming the Gospel – Fundamental of Evangelism

The disciples were, and we are, clearly instructed to “proclaim the Gospel.” What is the Gospel? I think the clearest and simplest definition of that comes from the introduction to “The Gospel According to St. Mark,” the earliest written of the four Gospels: Mark 1:1 – The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the son of God. So, the Christian Gospel, the good news, is the story of Jesus, beginning with creation (In the beginning was the Word…) and going all the way to the present time, the Church, the Body of Christ.

It apparently was only after the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus, and arrival of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, that the Apostles and disciples finally got the point and understood what had happened and what they were to do. They had a big advantage: they were first hand witnesses of the ministry of Jesus, the healing and preaching and teaching and going about doing good.

They also had a big disadvantage: They were constantly threatened with imprisonment and death.

We Christians in the USA have neither that advantage nor that disadvantage those early followers had. We are not threatened with imprisonment or death, nor are we first-hand witnesses of the ministry of Jesus. But we do have what has been handed on or handed over to us. And we have the experience of being part of The Church, The Body of Christ.

Handed on or handed over is an important phrase in the New Testament. It is a translation of a Greek word meaning to give over to someone’s power or use something to keep, take care of, or manage. Read more about the Greek word HERE.

Two important and pertinent examples of Biblical use of “handed on” are these in St. Paul’s words to the Christians at Corinth:

1 Corinthians 11:23-26 For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over, took bread, and, after he had given thanks, broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes.

1 Corinthians 15:3-8 For I handed on to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures; that he was buried; that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures; that he appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at once, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. After that he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one born abnormally, he appeared to me.

So, what has been handed on to or entrusted to us is what the Church refers to as the Heritage or Sacred Deposit of Faith as described in these lines from the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Probably the clearest and most concise statement of that Deposit of Faith today is the Nicene Creed which we recite at every Mass.

And, in addition to that Deposit of Faith, we have our personal experience as part of the Church, the Body of Christ, Christ as its Head, and empowered and inspired and guided by The Holy Spirit.

So, what we have to proclaim are what has been handed on to us and what we have experienced as part of the Body of Christ. Just as it was for Jesus and the Apostles, the extent to which our proclamation has credibility is going to be related to the extent to which our lives bear some witness to the truth of what we are proclaiming.

How can we do that proclamation? We can join in conversations, we can teach, and we can write. The third method is my favorite. And, if we are obviously faithful, loving God and neighbor as ourselves, and lost in service, our proclamations may have some credibility.

It is both challenge and burden.

The First NT Proclamations

Here are famous proclamations from the Book of Acts, five by Peter and two by Paul, verse numbers removed and paragraphs added.

Acts 2:14-36 (Peter’s speech at Pentecost)

Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice, and proclaimed to them, “You who are Jews, indeed all of you staying in Jerusalem. Let this be known to you, and listen to my words.

These people are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel: ‘It will come to pass in the last days,’ God says, ‘that I will pour out a portion of my spirit upon all flesh. Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions, your old men shall dream dreams. Indeed, upon my servants and my handmaids I will pour out a portion of my spirit in those days, and they shall prophesy. And I will work wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below: blood, fire, and a cloud of smoke. The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the coming of the great and splendid day of the Lord, and it shall be that everyone shall be saved who calls on the name of the Lord.’

You who are Israelites, hear these words. Jesus the Nazorean was a man commended to you by God with mighty deeds, wonders, and signs, which God worked through him in your midst, as you yourselves know. This man, delivered up by the set plan and foreknowledge of God, you killed, using lawless men to crucify him.

But God raised him up, releasing him from the throes of death, because it was impossible for him to be held by it. For David says of him: ‘I saw the Lord ever before me, with him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed. Therefore my heart has been glad and my tongue has exulted; my flesh, too, will dwell in hope, because you will not abandon my soul to the netherworld, nor will you suffer your holy one to see corruption. You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.’

My brothers, one can confidently say to you about the patriarch David that he died and was buried, and his tomb is in our midst to this day. But since he was a prophet and knew that God had sworn an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants upon his throne, he foresaw and spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, that neither was he abandoned to the netherworld nor did his flesh see corruption.

God raised this Jesus; of this we are all witnesses. Exalted at the right hand of God, he received the promise of the holy Spirit from the Father and poured it forth, as you (both) see and hear. For David did not go up into heaven, but he himself said: ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool.”‘ Therefore let the whole house of Israel know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.”

Acts 3:12-26 (After healing of the crippled beggar)

When Peter saw this, he addressed the people, “You Israelites, why are you amazed at this, and why do you look so intently at us as if we had made him walk by our own power or piety?

The God of Abraham, (the God) of Isaac, and (the God) of Jacob, the God of our ancestors, has glorified his servant Jesus whom you handed over and denied in Pilate’s presence, when he had decided to release him. You denied the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you.

The author of life you put to death, but God raised him from the dead; of this we are witnesses. And by faith in his name, this man, whom you see and know, his name has made strong, and the faith that comes through it has given him this perfect health, in the presence of all of you. Now I know, brothers, that you acted out of ignorance, just as your leaders did; but God has thus brought to fulfillment what he had announced beforehand through the mouth of all the prophets, that his Messiah would suffer.

Repent, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be wiped away, and that the Lord may grant you times of refreshment and send you the Messiah already appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the times of universal restoration of which God spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old.

For Moses said: ‘A prophet like me will the Lord, your God, raise up for you from among your own kinsmen; to him you shall listen in all that he may say to you. Everyone who does not listen to that prophet will be cut off from the people.’

Moreover, all the prophets who spoke, from Samuel and those afterwards, also announced these days. You are the children of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your ancestors when he said to Abraham, ‘In your offspring all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’ For you first, God raised up his servant and sent him to bless you by turning each of you from your evil ways.”

Acts 4:8-12  (When being questioned by the authorities)

Then Peter, filled with the holy Spirit, answered them, “Leaders of the people and elders: If we are being examined today about a good deed done to a cripple, namely, by what means he was saved, then all of you and all the people of Israel should know that it was in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead; in his name this man stands before you healed. He is ‘the stone rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone.’ There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved.”

Acts 5:29-32  (When the apostles had disobeyed the command to stop preaching)

But Peter and the apostles said in reply, “We must obey God rather than men.  The God of our ancestors raised Jesus, though you had him killed by hanging him on a tree.  God exalted him at his right hand as leader and savior to grant Israel repentance and forgiveness of sins.  We are witnesses of these things, as is the holy Spirit that God has given to those who obey him.”

Acts 10:34-43 (At Peter’s visit with Cornelius)

Then Peter proceeded to speak and said, “In truth, I see that God shows no partiality. Rather, in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightly is acceptable to him.

You know the word (that) he sent to the Israelites as he proclaimed peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all, what has happened all over Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached, how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the holy Spirit and power. He went about doing good and healing all those oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. We are witnesses of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and (in) Jerusalem.

They put him to death by hanging him on a tree. This man God raised (on) the third day and granted that he be visible, not to all the people, but to us, the witnesses chosen by God in advance, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.

He commissioned us to preach to the people and testify that he is the one appointed by God as judge of the living and the dead. To him all the prophets bear witness, that everyone who believes in him will receive forgiveness of sins through his name.”

Acts 13:16-41 (Paul to the synagogue at Antioch in Pisidia)

So Paul got up, motioned with his hand, and said, “Fellow Israelites and you others who are God-fearing, listen. The God of this people Israel chose our ancestors and exalted the people during their sojourn in the land of Egypt. With uplifted arm he led them out of it and for about forty years he put up with them in the desert. When he had destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan, he gave them their land as an inheritance at the end of about four hundred and fifty years.

After these things he provided judges up to Samuel (the) prophet. Then they asked for a king. God gave them Saul, son of Kish, a man from the tribe of Benjamin, for forty years. Then he removed him and raised up David as their king; of him he testified, ‘I have found David, son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will carry out my every wish.’

From this man’s descendants God, according to his promise, has brought to Israel a savior, Jesus. John heralded his coming by proclaiming a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel; and as John was completing his course, he would say, ‘What do you suppose that I am? I am not he. Behold, one is coming after me; I am not worthy to unfasten the sandals of his feet.’ “My brothers, children of the family of Abraham, and those others among you who are God-fearing, to us this word of salvation has been sent.

The inhabitants of Jerusalem and their leaders failed to recognize him, and by condemning him they fulfilled the oracles of the prophets that are read sabbath after sabbath. For even though they found no grounds for a death sentence, they asked Pilate to have him put to death, and when they had accomplished all that was written about him, they took him down from the tree and placed him in a tomb.

But God raised him from the dead, and for many days he appeared to those who had come up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem. These are (now) his witnesses before the people. We ourselves are proclaiming this good news to you that what God promised our ancestors he has brought to fulfillment for us, (their) children, by raising up Jesus, as it is written in the second psalm, ‘You are my son; this day I have begotten you.’

And that he raised him from the dead never to return to corruption he declared in this way, ‘I shall give you the benefits assured to David.’ That is why he also says in another psalm, ‘You will not suffer your holy one to see corruption.’

Now David, after he had served the will of God in his lifetime, fell asleep, was gathered to his ancestors, and did see corruption. But the one whom God raised up did not see corruption. You must know, my brothers, that through him forgiveness of sins is being proclaimed to you, (and) in regard to everything from which you could not be justified under the law of Moses, in him every believer is justified.

Be careful, then, that what was said in the prophets not come about: ‘Look on, you scoffers, be amazed and disappear. For I am doing a work in your days, a work that you will never believe even if someone tells you.'”

Acts 17:22-31 (Paul to the Athenians)

Then Paul stood up at the Areopagus and said: “You Athenians, I see that in every respect you are very religious. For as I walked around looking carefully at your shrines, I even discovered an altar inscribed, ‘To an Unknown God.’

What therefore you unknowingly worship, I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and all that is in it, the Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in sanctuaries made by human hands, nor is he served by human hands because he needs anything. Rather it is he who gives to everyone life and breath and everything.

He made from one the whole human race to dwell on the entire surface of the earth, and he fixed the ordered seasons and the boundaries of their regions, so that people might seek God, even perhaps grope for him and find him, though indeed he is not far from any one of us. For ‘In him we live and move and have our being,’ as even some of your poets have said, ‘For we too are his offspring.’

Since therefore we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the divinity is like an image fashioned from gold, silver, or stone by human art and imagination. God has overlooked the times of ignorance, but now he demands that all people everywhere repent because he has established a day on which he will ‘judge the world with justice’ through a man he has appointed, and he has provided confirmation for all by raising him from the dead.”

And, Finally, the Church Position on Apparitions

I wasn’t looking for this statement on apparitions or “private revelations” mentioned by Father Linsky, but just happened to notice it when I was looking up the statement on the Deposit of Faith. Search for the word “deposit” brought up this in the section about Jesus in the Profession of Faith.

 

 

 

 

 

History and Geography: Two Antiochs

Now that we are reading about the missionary journeys of St. Paul to many places Father Linsky has also traveled, I was inspired to do a little research and make sure that I at least know the locations of Antioch of Syria and Antioch of Pisidia. We have been to Rome, Athens, and Corinth but never to Egypt, Turkey, or Israel.

I’ll start with this map which is a screen shot from Google Maps and covers the whole area as it is today from Jerusalem to Rome (~1400 miles) and from Alexandria to Istanbul (~700 miles). As we look at this map, we can meditate about the difficulties and suffering involved in traveling those distances 2000 years ago to spread the Gospel of Jesus.

I found excellent maps coordinated with Paul’s journeys and the letters he wrote at the Christian Classics Ethereal Library, a totally digital library of Christian Classics including the works of Albert the Great, Pope Alexander, Ambrose, Anselm, Athanasius, and Augustine just to pick a few from the A’s. So, don’t be turned off by the fact that the library offices are housed at Calvin University in Grand Rapids, Michigan and that they publish works of Reformers as well. If you are suspicious or curious about the site, you can read about it and its founder here.

Anyway, geography is geography and history is history even though coastlines, borders, and even continents move around, countries change names, and history can certainly be slanted by the winners who write it.

So here is a link to the information I found. I includes 21 maps illustrating all the travels of Paul and associated verses from The New Testament,  putting Paul’s epistles in context with respect to where and when they were written.

Just as a teaser, I am copying and pasting below the very first map in the series and the first one that shows both Antiochs. It is easy to scroll back and forth between this map and the Google shot for comparisons.

And below is the first map in the series which shows both Antiochs. Note the caption which refers to what we learn from today’s 1st reading.

Please don’t feel that I am being patronizing. This is very educational and helpful for me. And, I may not remember much of this but at least from now on will have a quick and easy way to look it up. Besides that, in spite of how much easier the travel would be now than it was when St. Paul made the trip, I really don’t have any desire to follow his paths.

Herods

The Herod challenge by Father Linsky turned out to be interesting, educational, and even inspirational. I was thinking there were two Herods, Herod the Great and Herod Antipas. But, considering that all the descendants/heirs of Herod the Great could be referred to as Herod, there are six who have at least dishonorable mentions in the New Testament story.

There is a quick and helpful mention of two of them, Herod Antipas and Herod Philip, in Luke 3:1. St. Luke the recorder and reporter is taking care to correctly place the Gospel story he is about to tell in correct historical context.

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene,

The other four members of the family bearing the name Herod and showing up in the New Testament were Patriarch Big Daddy Herod the Great who was jealous of Baby Jesus and died in 4 B.C., son Archelaus who took over at Herod’s death and got one quick mention, grandson Herod Agrippa I who killed St. James and put Saint Peter in jail, and great grandson Herod Agrippa II who got to spend quality time with St. Paul, to no avail, as far as we know.

Wikipedia has a handy list of eight members of the Herodian Dynasty. Below is an abbreviated family tree showing only the characters getting New Testament mentions:

And now comes the inspirational part. I have copied and pasted below pertinent NABRE passages mentioned in the chart above, eliminating verse numbers and instead arranging the sentences in paragraphs. The words are from the searchable Bible linked on this website so go there to read the footnotes and commentary.

If time is short, skip to the last section covering the conversations between Agrippa II and St. Paul for an inspirational example of a perfectly catechized Christian accurately proclaiming the Gospel to the rich and powerful in the face of great danger, before being declared innocent and sent off to Rome to die. Here are the stories.

Herod the Great – Matthew 2:1-21

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.”

When King Herod heard this, he was greatly troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. Assembling all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it has been written through the prophet: ‘And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; since from you shall come a ruler, who is to shepherd my people Israel.'”

Then Herod called the magi secretly and ascertained from them the time of the star’s appearance. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search diligently for the child. When you have found him, bring me word, that I too may go and do him homage.”

After their audience with the king they set out. And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them, until it came and stopped over the place where the child was. They were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother. They prostrated themselves and did him homage. Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their country by another way.

When they had departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him.” Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed for Egypt. He stayed there until the death of Herod, that what the Lord had said through the prophet might be fulfilled, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

When Herod realized that he had been deceived by the magi, he became furious. He ordered the massacre of all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had ascertained from the magi. Then was fulfilled what had been said through Jeremiah the prophet: “A voice was heard in Ramah, sobbing and loud lamentation; Rachel weeping for her children, and she would not be consoled, since they were no more.”

When Herod had died, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.” He rose, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel.

Herod Archelaus – Matthew 2:22

But when he (Joseph) heard that (Herod) Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go back there. And because he had been warned in a dream, he departed for the region of Galilee.

Herod Antipas (The Tetrarch) – Death of John – Mark 6:14-29
Also in Matthew 14:1-11, Luke 3:18-20, and Luke 9:7-9

King Herod heard about it (successes of Jesus and his disciples), for his fame had become widespread, and people were saying, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead; that is why mighty powers are at work in him.” Others were saying, “He is Elijah”; still others, “He is a prophet like any of the prophets.” But when Herod learned of it, he said, “It is John whom I beheaded. He has been raised up.”

Herod was the one who had John arrested and bound in prison on account of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip, whom he had married. John had said to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” Herodias harbored a grudge against him and wanted to kill him but was unable to do so.

Herod feared John, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man, and kept him in custody. When he heard him speak he was very much perplexed, yet he liked to listen to him.

She (Herodius) had an opportunity one day when Herod, on his birthday, gave a banquet for his courtiers, his military officers, and the leading men of Galilee. Herodias’s own daughter came in and performed a dance that delighted Herodand his guests. The king said to the girl, “Ask of me whatever you wish and I will grant it to you.” He even swore (many things) to her, “I will grant you whatever you ask of me, even to half of my kingdom.” She went out and said to her mother, “What shall I ask for?” She replied, “The head of John the Baptist.”

The girl hurried back to the king’s presence and made her request, “I want you to give me at once on a platter the head of John the Baptist.” The king was deeply distressed, but because of his oaths and the guests he did not wish to break his word to her. So he promptly dispatched an executioner with orders to bring back his head. He went off and beheaded him in the prison. He brought in the head on a platter and gave it to the girl. The girl in turn gave it to her mother. When his disciples heard about it, they came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.

Herod Antipas (The Tetrarch) – Encounters with Jesus

Luke 9:7-9  Herod the tetrarch heard about all that was happening, and he was greatly perplexed because some were saying, “John has been raised from the dead”; others were saying, “Elijah has appeared”; still others, “One of the ancient prophets has arisen.” But Herod said, “John I beheaded. Who then is this about whom I hear such things?” And he kept trying to see him (Jesus).

Luke 13:31-32  At that time some Pharisees came to him and said, “Go away, leave this area because Herod wants to kill you.” He replied, “Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and I perform healings today and tomorrow, and on the third day I accomplish my purpose.Yet I must continue on my way today, tomorrow, and the following day, for it is impossible that a prophet should die outside of Jerusalem.’

Luke 23:6-12  On hearing this Pilate asked if the man was a Galilean; and upon learning that he was under Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him to Herod who was in Jerusalem at that time. Herod was very glad to see Jesus; he had been wanting to see him for a long time, for he had heard about him and had been hoping to see him perform some sign.

He questioned him (Jesus) at length, but he gave him no answer. The chief priests and scribes, meanwhile, stood by accusing him harshly. (Even) Herod and his soldiers treated him contemptuously and mocked him, and after clothing him in resplendent garb, he sent him back to Pilate. Herod and Pilate became friends that very day, even though they had been enemies formerly.

Herod Agrippa I – Acts 12:1-11 – Vs. James and Peter

About that time King Herod (Agrippa) laid hands upon some members of the church to harm them. He had James, the brother of John, killed by the sword, and when he saw that this was pleasing to the Jews he proceeded to arrest Peter also. (It was (the) feast of Unleavened Bread.) He had him taken into custody and put in prison under the guard of four squads of four soldiers each. He intended to bring him before the people after Passover.

Peter thus was being kept in prison, but prayer by the church was fervently being made to God on his behalf. On the very night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter, secured by double chains, was sleeping between two soldiers, while outside the door guards kept watch on the prison. Suddenly the angel of the Lord stood by him and a light shone in the cell. He tapped Peter on the side and awakened him, saying, “Get up quickly.” The chains fell from his wrists.

The angel said to him, “Put on your belt and your sandals.” He did so. Then he said to him, “Put on your cloak and follow me.” So he followed him out, not realizing that what was happening through the angel was real; he thought he was seeing a vision. They passed the first guard, then the second, and came to the iron gate leading out to the city, which opened for them by itself. They emerged and made their way down an alley, and suddenly the angel left him.

Then Peter recovered his senses and said, “Now I know for certain that (the) Lord sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people had been expecting.”

Herod Agrippa II – Acts 25:13 – 27:1 – Encounter with St. Paul

When a few days had passed, King Agrippa and Bernice arrived in Caesarea on a visit to Festus. Since they spent several days there, Festus referred Paul’s case to the king, saying, “There is a man here left in custody by Felix. When I was in Jerusalem the chief priests and the elders of the Jews brought charges against him and demanded his condemnation. I answered them that it was not Roman practice to hand over an accused person before he has faced his accusers and had the opportunity to defend himself against their charge. So when (they) came together here, I made no delay; the next day I took my seat on the tribunal and ordered the man to be brought in.

His accusers stood around him, but did not charge him with any of the crimes I suspected. Instead they had some issues with him about their own religion and about a certain Jesus who had died but who Paul claimed was alive. Since I was at a loss how to investigate this controversy, I asked if he were willing to go to Jerusalem and there stand trial on these charges. And when Paul appealed that he be held in custody for the Emperor’s decision, I ordered him held until I could send him to Caesar.” Agrippa said to Festus, “I too should like to hear this man.” He replied, “Tomorrow you will hear him.”

The next day Agrippa and Bernice came with great ceremony and entered the audience hall in the company of cohort commanders and the prominent men of the city and, by command of Festus, Paul was brought in. And Festus said, “King Agrippa and all you here present with us, look at this man about whom the whole Jewish populace petitioned me here and in Jerusalem, clamoring that he should live no longer. I found, however, that he had done nothing deserving death, and so when he appealed to the Emperor, I decided to send him. But I have nothing definite to write about him to our sovereign; therefore I have brought him before all of you, and particularly before you, King Agrippa, so that I may have something to write as a result of this investigation. For it seems senseless to me to send up a prisoner without indicating the charges against him.” Then Agrippa said to Paul, “You may now speak on your own behalf.”

So Paul stretched out his hand and began his defense. “I count myself fortunate, King Agrippa, that I am to defend myself before you today against all the charges made against me by the Jews, especially since you are an expert in all the Jewish customs and controversies. And therefore I beg you to listen patiently. My manner of living from my youth, a life spent from the beginning among my people and in Jerusalem, all (the) Jews know. They have known about me from the start, if they are willing to testify, that I have lived my life as a Pharisee, the strictest party of our religion.

But now I am standing trial because of my hope in the promise made by God to our ancestors. Our twelve tribes hope to attain to that promise as they fervently worship God day and night; and on account of this hope I am accused by Jews, O king. Why is it thought unbelievable among you that God raises the dead?

I myself once thought that I had to do many things against the name of Jesus the Nazorean, and I did so in Jerusalem. I imprisoned many of the holy ones with the authorization I received from the chief priests, and when they were to be put to death I cast my vote against them. Many times, in synagogue after synagogue, I punished them in an attempt to force them to blaspheme; I was so enraged against them that I pursued them even to foreign cities.

“On one such occasion I was traveling to Damascus with the authorization and commission of the chief priests. At midday, along the way, O king, I saw a light from the sky, brighter than the sun, shining around me and my traveling companions. We all fell to the ground and I heard a voice saying to me in Hebrew, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goad.’ And I said, ‘Who are you, sir?’ And the Lord replied, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. Get up now, and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness of what you have seen (of me) and what you will be shown. I shall deliver you from this people and from the Gentiles to whom I send you, to open their eyes that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may obtain forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been consecrated by faith in me.’

“And so, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision. On the contrary, first to those in Damascus and in Jerusalem and throughout the whole country of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, I preached the need to repent and turn to God, and to do works giving evidence of repentance.  21 That is why the Jews seized me (when I was) in the temple and tried to kill me. But I have enjoyed God’s help to this very day, and so I stand here testifying to small and great alike, saying nothing different from what the prophets and Moses foretold, that the Messiah must suffer and that, as the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles.”

While Paul was so speaking in his defense, Festus said in a loud voice, “You are mad, Paul; much learning is driving you mad.” But Paul replied, “I am not mad, most excellent Festus; I am speaking words of truth and reason. The king knows about these matters and to him I speak boldly, for I cannot believe that (any) of this has escaped his notice; this was not done in a corner. King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you believe.”

Then Agrippa said to Paul, “You will soon persuade me to play the Christian.” Paul replied, “I would pray to God that sooner or later not only you but all who listen to me today might become as I am except for these chains.” Then the king rose, and with him the governor and Bernice and the others who sat with them. And after they had withdrawn they said to one another, “This man is doing nothing (at all) that deserves death or imprisonment.” And Agrippa said to Festus, “This man could have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar.”

 

 

Welcome to the Graveyard

Here is a 12 minute slide show you may enjoy. You will probably recognize the voice of Mike DeSumma. You will have to download it and then open it with PowerPoint. I solicit comments about the slide show or about the new Graveyard website it is designed to promote and spark interest in: www.visitstpetersgraveyard.org.

This has been my time-consuming hobby for the last 10 weeks or so.

And here is the link to the slide show: Graveyard Experimental Apr 22

 

Today’s 1st Reading: The Whole Story

The healing in the name of Jesus of the man crippled from birth is the focus of today’s 1st reading. It is only part of the story, possibly making us wonder why the folks who divided the Bible into chapters and verses made the decisions they did about chapters 3 and 4.

The whole story, beginning with Peter and John on their way to the temple for afternoon prayer and ending with the local Church gathered in prayer and being filled with the Holy Spirit and proclaiming the Word of God fearlessly, is told in Acts 3:1 to Acts 4:31.  I guess that would have been a chapter too long.

Anyway, it is a beautiful and theologically profound story about the very early Church and its faithfulness and resulting impact on the larger community. It is a challenge to the Church of any time and place.

The whole story is worth a careful reading, paying attention to the footnotes which provide some valuable explanation about context and culture. These three pages are rich enough to be the basis for a great Gospel-proclaiming, movie.

It’s just a suggestion for use of some of all that spare time many of us are experiencing.

By the way, anytime any of you members of the MPG have thoughts, questions, or issues you want to share about the readings, you are free to use this space. Just send what you would like me to post. It should not be personal since some folks not members of the group read it from time to time. And remember, I am not an approved teacher but just an interested lay person making observations.

And, hopefully, we will soon be able to resume meeting weekly with Father Linsky.