Reflections on the Readings
Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Ninteenth Sunday After Pentecost
October 19, 2014 - Year A
Thessalonica Meets Jesus
For we know, brethren beloved by God, that he has chosen you; for our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction.
In Acts chapter 16 we read: A vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing beseeching him and saying, "Come over to Macedonia and help us."
So prompted by the Holy Spirit Paul and Silas and Timothy sailed for Macedonia and introduced the people of Philippi to Jesus. A girl in that city was possessed by a spirit of divination and made her owners a lot of money by her soothsaying.
She taunted the missionaries saying, "These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation." Annoyed, Paul cast the spirit out of her costing her owners their means of making money. Seizing Paul and Silas, the former owners of the soothsaying girl brought charges against the missionaries exclaiming, "These men are Jews and they are disturbing our city. And they advocate customs not lawful for us Romans to accept or practice." It kind of reminds one of the conflicts we currently encounter with the intrusion of government into matters of conscience. Caesar always pushes his way into such things with threat of punishment and fines, seeking to push the Church into the peripheries. "Don't bother us with matters of faith and conscience. It's against the law," they say.
Anyway, Paul and Silas were beaten with rods and put in prison with their feet placed in stocks and about midnight Paul and Silas were heard praying and singing hymns to God. And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone's chains fell off. The jailer asked, "What must I do to be saved?" And they said, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household." That same night the jailer and his family were baptized.
The missionaries moved on from Philippi to Thessalonica where for three Sabbaths in the synagogue Paul argued from the scriptures, explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, "This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ." And Christ worked through Paul and company and confirmed the message they preached with attending signs.
Evangelization in the early Church happened from an intimate encounter with the Holy Spirit - the Spirit of Jesus. Paul affirms that their short but productive missionary efforts in Thessalonica was not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. Paul believed what he preached and he preached what he knew, that is, Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
Everywhere Paul's missionary journeys took him, no matter what resistance he encountered or hostility that he incurred, the gospel he preached was with power and demonstration of the Spirit. The Church was not birthed in Philippi, Thessalonica, or in Corinth by lofty words or wisdom. Among all his converts Paul's message was not with plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and power, that their faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
With all that is within us let us live peaceably with Caesar rendering to Caesar what is lawful. We, however, are not made in the image of Caesar, but rather we bear the image of God. Let us give ourselves to him and he will confirm the message of the gospel through us as he did through Paul and Silas and Timothy, and Priscilla and Aquilla and all who have ever testified of the love of God in Christ Jesus. Amen.
Dennis Hankins, a Catholic Evangelist, is a parishioner at Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral, of the Diocese of Knoxville, TN. Prior to uniting with the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil 2006, Dennis served as a priest in the Charismatic Episcopal Church. E-mail Dennis at: firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter: @dshankins or visit him at: www.dennishankins.com