St Joseph and St Mary Parishes in Freeport, IL

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Bible, Acts of the Apostles #17


Chapter 21 starts with Paul bouncing around a little while people are more and more aware of his death (v4 & 9-12). The Jews in Jerusalem were plotting to have him killed. Paul’s response is unexpected. Paul says, “What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? I am prepared not only to be bound but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of our Lord Jesus” (v 13). His faith in Jesus and his purpose in dying drives him on.
He trusts in Jesus’ promise of eternal life. This is enough to inspire most Christians, but his love for Jesus that drives him to death is something that even many Christians would hesitate on. Most people would think Jesus is there to bring nothing but good things. Paul seems to be driven more by love than a promise of good things. He is driven by love to give his love to God by way of sacrifice, and nothing else will do. He looks forward to it, but it is a heroism that few would.
I noticed here a small detail as well. Luke, the writer of this book, is using the word “we.” Luke is present in all these events and so is giving first-hand accounts of these events. Actually, Luke has been with Paul for quite a while. If you noticed, the Acts of the Apostles covers Paul’s life since his conversion. The Acts of the Apostles offers a great summary of Paul’s Christian life. Actually, most of the Acts of the Apostles deals with Paul’s life once his conversion happens. There is good reason for this.
It ties in to the reason he is about to go through his persecution and what leads to his death. Paul gets arrested, but only after the Jews of Jerusalem try to kill him. Accusations are made against Paul about his handling of the Gentile converts. He does not demand circumcision or any of the other requirements of the law except for the eating of food dedicated to false gods. Paul is the one chosen by God to go and convert the Gentiles. It is through Paul that the rest of the world is called into the fold of the Christ, the anointed one. He is truly living out the call that Jesus gave to the Church He founded: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Mt 28:18-19). Paul exemplifies the mission of the Church even to today.
Paul is driven for this purpose. He is accused of not doing as God commands (v21), but points to the higher command. He points to the unity that Jesus desires for us and only He can give (Eph 4:5). False accusations are given on this account (v 28 &29) but only as the old law had required. Even the Jews who believed did not recognize the authority that Jesus had regarding the law. They still do not see Jesus as God.
I am not sure what this means in Jewish understanding, but I noticed how when they take Paul out of the temple to kill him, the Bible says, “and immediately the gates were closed.” Sounds to me that God was not pleased. It would either mean that no admittance would be given, or the flow of His graces would now be shut. The riot that ensues is the commencement for the death of Paul in Rome. Paul’s death happened because he followed Jesus’ divine will. He exemplifies the Church’s mission to sacrifice and love. Ironically, Paul’s accusers echo Jesus’ death by yelling, “Away with him” (v 36). Paul’s mission, even in death, is united to Jesus.


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Bible: Acts of the Apostles #14

In Chapter 18, Paul moves on from Athens and ends in Corinth. He later wrote two letters to the Corinthians that are in the Bible, but now he is describing his first meeting with them. Here, he also meets Aquila and Priscilla and we learn that both Paul and Aquila are tentmakers by trade (v3). That is how they make their money. This is also the same Aquila and Priscilla that are depicted in the recent movie “Paul, the Apostle of Christ.” In this biblical account, Aquila and Priscilla have to move out of Rome, insinuating that they were living in Rome at the time. The movie depicts that they would have moved back into Rome to help the Christians there and to serve God. Continue reading


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Bible, Acts of the Apostles 13

Chapter 17 begins with Paul getting to Thessalonica. I find it interesting the argument against Christianity is that the Apostles and early Christians were against women and their rights – that somehow they were suppressing women. Yet in verse 4 a great number of “prominent women” were converting. Not only were there many women, but they specifically say that they were prominent women who converted. Because they were prominent, these women were educated and had a sense of independence. It makes me think about what could have made these women take notice of the Christian faith. What would make independent women think about believing in Jesus and joining the Church? Perhaps they never felt suppressed. In fact, at that time, the Faith in Jesus honored women.
Women in the church were treated as equals and understood to be equals. But equality may not be the same as the agenda driven critics of the Catholic Church. Today, many with agendas may think equality as the same, so in order for there to be equality between men and women, they must be the same. But when you look at the definition of “equals,” you will not find the idea of “same.” Rather, equal refers to value, not same. So women and men are in fact different. That is why many think men are from Mars and women are from Venus. How men and women think is very different, but they both have the same value. Both are necessary for the betterment of society. There are so many people with so many gifts. Continue reading


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Bible: Acts of the Apostles #12

As Paul and Timothy were singing and praying in the jail, there came an earthquake that jarred the doors and chains loose (Acts 16:26). The guard was about to kill himself when Paul told him not to. Sounds like a strange thing on two accounts: first, why would a guard try killing himself; and second, Paul was comforting the guard.
I will start with the second issue, Paul comforting the guard. It illustrates for us Paul’s love for the guard. He is being detained for evil purposes. But this does not hinder Paul’s concern for the well-being of the guard. This leads us to the next issue.
On the first issue, Roman guards were killed if they found their captors gone. It would be a disgrace to them and their families if anybody got loose. It would be a torturous death at that. So many would kill themselves rather than go through that. It actually became more honorable to kill yourself. This man was as good as dead. But then he asks, “What must I do to be saved?” (verse30).
Notice Paul’s response. Paul says, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you and your household will be saved” (Acts 16:31). The first thing we need to do is believe in the Lord Jesus.
So the first thing the Apostles need to do is preach the Gospel message. Without the Gospel message, we would never know what to believe. Notice also that they do not give them a bible, but rather speak the words to them that Jesus himself taught and did. Because of their preaching, they want to be baptized (v33). Such a great interaction comes here. They are baptized. The guard and his whole household.
Now imagine this: the guard was going to kill himself. He was as good as dead. Paul brings him back to his house alive. How grateful the whole household must have been. That guard was probably the sole means of making money. That one life affected many other people. Before the baptism, they washed Paul and Silas’ wounds. They feel the need to make things right. They are willing to accept the responsibility for what has happened to them. Then Paul baptizes them. Since the whole household was baptized, it is traditionally assumed that babies were baptized with them. All the people in the house accept Jesus in their lives that day by virtue of their baptism.
Only after the baptism do they celebrate. Why? It seems that they would have accepted Jesus in their lives before they were baptized. What makes them feel the need to be baptized? We see this constantly in the Acts of the Apostles. Only after the baptism is there any mention of “joy” and “newfound faith” (v34). Something very real has happened. Only after the baptism do we find the fruits of the Holy Spirit and the theological virtues. They are changed from within. True and lasting happiness enters into their lives.
The overview of this baptism is that they preach to them and then they get baptized. The preaching must happen first because the preaching explains why you would want to be baptized. It is the faith that inspires a person to want to be baptized, so the faith leads to baptism. Baptism makes you Children of God and the offering of eternal life gives hope, even in suffering.
So are Paul and Silas released from jail? No. Paul goes and baptizes the whole household of the guard who beat them, and Paul does not assume that he will be released. He knows that if he is gone, the guard would still be killed. Paul loves the guard and his household and does not want them to perish. He voluntarily goes back to the jail.


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Joy in the Three Legged Stool

Three legged stool? What is he talking about? Listen and find out!


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Bible: Acts of the Apostles 9

Chapter 14 shows how hard it can be when you bring Christ to others. There were people who constantly told lies about Paul and Barnabas that conditioned people not to believe. They became violent against them. Paul heals a crippled man by the power of Jesus. The people think that they are gods. They start to offer sacrifices for them. Paul and Barnabas tear their garments and tell the people not to do this, but they would not listen. Instead, a group of people from Iconium (the previous town) that did not believe in what they preached came to town (Lystra), and the people believed those who opposed Paul and Barnabas. What a strange turn of events. Paul heals a man and they think he is a god. Paul then tries to correct them. They don’t listen to Paul, but those who lie about him and end up stoning him think he is dead. Continue reading