A reading according to Acts 14:19-28

In those days, 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. 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. 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.

REFLECTION: “It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God.”

It never dawned on me how much and how long St. Paul travelled until I pulled up a map:

  • On his first missionary journey we travelled to Cyprus and Asia Minor (Acts 13:4 - 14:26).

  • The second to Macedonia and Greece (Acts 15:40 - 18:22)

  • The third to Ephesus, Europe, and Asia Minor (Acts 18:23 - 21:15)

  • The fourth to Malta and Rome (Acts 27:1 - 28:16).

That makes it about 10,000 miles by foot! And during those trips, he was beaten with rods 3 times; shipwrecked; and as we see in today's first reading, even stoned and left for dead.

At times even his companions abandoned or even betrayed him, as we read in 2 Tim 4:9-22. Yet, St. Paul did not stop bringing the good news to the gentiles.

Who would do such a thing? Why would someone do such a thing?

I know I would struggle a lot knowing that having a message from God, a message of salvation and hope, I was rejected by those hearing me. I'd most likely give up and "forget about it".

The Holy Spirit allowed St. Paul to persevere in bringing the Gospel to all he met. He evangelized with more zealousness than when he was persecuting Christians. He was not doing it for his own benefit. He was doing it for our benefit.

I recall seeing Pope St. John Paul II travelling around the world, and bringing hope to the nations, despite old age and sickness. Same with Pope Francis on his travel to Iraq. You could see the pain of his sciatica creeping up on him, and still, he persevered in bringing consolation to the Iraqi Catholics in their homeland.

I remember visiting a couple of years ago a priest I knew from childhood. Back when I first met him, he was a priest "fresh out of the seminary", full of vigor and strength. When I recently saw him, he had aged considerably. During the last 20 years he had been assigned to very poor parishes and lacked a vehicle. He had to walk incessantly in 116 F degree weather to attend his flock. Now he has tired, his feet and legs were painfully swollen, but he still spent time in quiet prayer before delivering several daily and weekly masses, hours of confession, and spiritual direction. Peace surrounded him.

In the 21st century, in first world countries, I have met priests that have been shunned because of the color of their skin. Others that have been persecuted and defamed because of their beliefs (for believing in what the Catholic Church teaches). Even some were kicked out of the country for upholding the sanctity of life.

It will be easier for our priests to give up. To look for more comfort and less pain. To preach a "chill" Jesus that doesn't come in conflict with the world....

And there lies one of the reasons PAPA exists. We must pray for our priests. For all the priests, so they never betray their holy vocation. So that they persevere in being an Alter Christus for us.

Pray the PAPA Prayer for Priests everyday so God "Stirs up in them the grace of their vocation", and for Jesus to "keep them close to His Sacred Heart, and bless them abundantly in time and eternity."

God bless y'all!