Reading the Acts of the Apostles
with Michael Rubbelke
Director of Adult Faith Formation
 You Will Be
My Witness

 (Acts 15:36-21:14)
Saint Paul ranks as one of the greatest missionary evangelists in the Catholic Church’s history. This week, our readings focus entirely on his second and third missionary journeys, which include bringing the Gospel to Europe for the first time (Acts 16:9-12). Luke’s account can seem like a blur of unfamiliar place names, but it also points to Paul as an example who models some very helpful ways to evangelize. We may not be called to be missionaries to faraway lands, but we, like Paul, are called to proclaim the Good News, both by our witness and our words. I would like to focus on two valuable Pauline lessons from these missionary journeys.  
First, Paul teaches us the importance of persistence in sharing the Good News. This week’s readings show the apostle to the Gentiles “practicing what he preached” to Timothy: “proclaim the word; be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient” (2 Timothy 4:2). This persistence brought both success and rejection.

On these journeys, we see Paul succeeding in his work, especially when he establishes or influences communities in Philippi (Acts 16:11-40), Thessalonica (Acts 17:1-10), Corinth (Acts 18:1-18), and Ephesus (Acts 18:19-21; 19:1-40). All of these communities received letters from Paul which can now be found in the New Testament. His unrelenting work for the Lord clearly left an impact there!

Yet, even in these places, Paul was rejected by many. He often left these cities under threat of imprisonment or at the instigation of an angry crowd. Surprisingly, Paul does not treat this as a failure: “If we are afflicted, it is for your encouragement and salvation; if we are encouraged, it is for your encouragement, which enables you to endure the same sufferings that we suffer” (2 Corinthians 1:6). When we are rejected but persevere, we can give others strength, hope, and encouragement that they too can be faithful and bold, even when things go completely awry. Our perseverance measures the success of our witness to Jesus Christ.
Second, Paul’s preaching to different audiences reveals an important principle. Evangelization cannot have a “one-size-fits-all” approach. For this reason, Paul told the Corinthians, “I have become all things to all, to save least some” (1 Corinthians 9:22). What does this entail?

Knowing the desires of his Jewish brothers and sisters, Paul preaches Jesus in the synagogues as their long-desired Messiah. To the Gentiles, Paul’s approach is different. We can see this most clearly in his famous address to the Gentiles in Athens (Acts 17:22-31). Observing their altars dedicated “to an unknown god,” Paul tells the Athenians, “What therefore you unknowingly worship, I proclaim to you” (Acts 17:23). Jesus Christ answers the deepest desires of their hearts too.

We too ought not to imagine that we will have a “silver bullet” in sharing the Good News. Christ wishes to meet every individual in the particular mess and beauty of their lives. In all these different situations, Paul proclaims there is one “supreme good”: “knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Philippians 3:8). When we, like Paul, can show how Christ responds to the needs of the person right in front of us, we can offer Jesus’s salvation most effectively.

Following Paul’s example, let us ask the Lord to grow as evangelizing disciples in two ways. Let us ask for the grace of perseverance in witnessing to Christ, whether this is easy or hard, successful or costly. Let us also ask the Lord to make us sensitive to the needs and desires of others, so that we can share His love, mercy, and salvation with them right where they are.
from the Collect for the Conversion of Saint Paul

O God,
who taught the whole world
through the preaching of the blessed Apostle Paul,

draw us, we pray, nearer to you
through Paul’s exemplary evangelization,

and so make us witnesses to your truth in the world.

Through Christ our Lord.
Recall someone who was persistent in sharing Christ’s love with you through success and failure. How does their example encourage you? What lessons do they teach you about sharing the Good News?

In what ways do you share Christ’s love in the specific circumstances of others’ lives? How can you grow in meeting them where they are?

Can you, like Paul, claim “the supreme good” is “knowing Christ Jesus my Lord”? Where do you feel called to grow in letting Christ be the organizing center of your life?

Persistence in prayer and persistence in evangelization share an intimate connection. Over the course of this week, pray every day for the grace of perseverance in sharing Christ with others.

Find an opportunity to listen to how someone in your life needs Christ. Take this to prayer, and find a way to share your experience of Jesus’s saving love with him or her.

Take Pope Benedict XVI’s General Audience on Paul’s understanding of the apostolate as your spiritual reading this week. Ask the Lord where He desires you to grow in the joy and perseverance of proclaiming the Gospel that Paul models for us.

Saint Pius X Catholic Parish, dedicated to renewing all things in Christ, is committed to evangelization through prayer, service, sacrificial giving, faith formation, and community.
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