20 May, 2017. Saturday, Week 5

Saint Bernardine of Siena, priest

1st Reading: Acts 16:1-10

Timothy, a half-Jew, joins in Paul’s Gospel mission

Paul went on also to Derbe and to Lystra, where there was a disciple named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer; but his father was a Greek. He was well spoken of by the believers in Lystra and Iconium. Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him; and he took him and had him circumcised because of the Jews who were in those places, for they all knew that his father was a Greek. As they went from town to town, they delivered to them for observance the decisions that had been reached by the apostles and elders who were in Jerusalem. So the churches were strengthened in the faith and increased in numbers daily.

They went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. When they had come opposite Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them; so, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas. During the night Paul had a vision: there stood a man of Macedonia pleading with him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” When he had seen the vision, we immediately tried to cross over to Macedonia, being convinced that God had called us to proclaim the good news to them.

Gospel: John 15:18-21

Servants are not greater than their master. Disciples must not expect an easy time

Jesus said to his disciples,
“If the world hates you, be aware that it hated me before it hated you. If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own. Because you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, Servants are not greater than their master. If they persecuted me, they will persecute you; if they kept my word, they will keep yours also. But they will do all these things to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.”


Getting on with the work

Adversity played big part in Paul’s apostolate; and perhaps in ours too. Persecuted in one place, the disciples fled to another place; so the gospel moved onward and continued to spread across the Roman Empire. Local conditions threw road-blocks in Paul’s way keeping him from preaching as he had intended; and St Luke offers this explanation, “They were prevented by the Holy Spirit from preaching the message.” This interpretation allows that even human intrigues, jealousy and misunderstanding such as later happened to Paul in Corinth, can be part of God’s providential plan for apostolic workers. The Gospel spreads within a human setting, despite faulty human judgment and selfish motives, but the Holy Scripture still recognizes a mystery of salvation being achieved by the Holy Spirit, through human instruments.

Oddly it seems, Paul had Timothy circumcised “because of the Jews of that region.” Yet, at the same time Paul was transmitting for observance the decision the apostles and elders had made in Jerusalem. Once it was settled that circumcision was not necessary for salvation, Paul felt free to circumcise out of respect for others! This procedure included some rather sophisticated reasoning, hard bargaining with the Jerusalem church, loyalty to principle and yet compromise on non-essentials. Now that circumcision was no longer a prerequisite for salvation, Paul could have his his assistant Timothy circumcised, so as not to scandalise the Jews of that region!

Called to go to Macedonia is how Paul (and Luke) perceived the decision to cross the Dardanelles. Yet it was a monumental decision, by which Christianity passes into Europe for the first time. The heart of biblical religion will no longer be located at Jerusalem but somewhere else. That step was induced by a set of human circumstances, some petty and insignificant yet all the while annoying, others more theological and reflective. Paul handled the situation with a combined reaction of stern principle and diplomatic compromise. All the while, he was convinced that he was being led by the Holy Spirit.

Servant and master

Jesus predicted the world’s hatred for him and for his followers. The gospels show that he was realistic about the hostility that would come his own way and the way of his followers. Yet, he wanted his followers to relate to the world not on the basis of how the world relates to them but on the basis of how God relates to the world.

The words, “A servant is not greater than his master,” can be read in two ways. One is, “as the master experienced hostility, so will the servants.” The other way is, “if the master washed the feet of the servants, so the servants must do likewise; they must reveal the love of God to others regardless of how they relate to them.” That saying of Jesus, “a servant is not greater than his master” gives us much to ponder. It also brings home to us our dependence on the Holy Spirit, if we are to be like the master in every respect.

Saint Bernardine of Siena, priest

Bernardine (1380-1444) was an itinerant Franciscan preacher with an eloquent, captivating style, and his use of popular imagery and creative language drew large crowds to hear his sermons. He was fierce in denouncing immorality of alll kinds and played a major part in reviving faith and morals in Italy during the 15th century.

Join the Discussion

Keep the following in mind when writing a comment

  • Your comment must include your full name, and email. (email will not be published). You may be contacted by email, and it is possible you might be requested to supply your postal address to verify your identity.
  • Be respectful. Do not attack the writer. Take on the idea, not the messenger. Comments containing vulgarities, personalised insults, slanders or accusations shall be deleted.
  • Keep to the point. Deliberate digressions don't aid the discussion.
  • Including multiple links or coding in your comment will increase the chances of it being automati cally marked as spam.
  • Posts that are merely links to other sites or lengthy quotes may not be published.
  • Brevity. Like homilies keep you comments as short as possible; continued repetitions of a point over various threads will not be published.
  • The decision to publish or not publish a comment is made by the site editor. It will not be possible to reply individually to those whose comments are not published.