At Mass this week we have been reading narratives from Paul’s second missionary journey. Acts of the Apostles, chapters 16 to 18, recounts how Paul and his companions reached Macedonia and stayed a long while in towns like Philippi and Corinth.
Paul’s second missionary journey was a test of endurance. In Troas Paul had a vision (Acts 16:9-10) asking him to come over to Macedonia. So, sailing from Troas, Paul, Silas, and Timothy reached Philippi, in Macedonia. After some time, Paul and Silas were arrested and beaten because Paul had driven a spirit out of a young slave girl whose owners used her as a fortuneteller for hire (Acts 16:16-24). Jealous Jews stirred up a bunch of ruffians and hauled Paul and Silas to the Roman magistrates. Paul and Silas were imprisoned and beaten by order of the magistrates.
But that was not the end of the matter. Paul and Silas converted their jailer and his whole household. Then, the next day, when the magistrates found out that Paul and Silas were Roman citizens, they tried to release them quietly. Paul, however, demanded that the magistrates personally release them because they were arrested and beaten without a trial (16:35-39). Embarrassed, the magistrates complied, but insisted that Paul and Silas leave Philippi.
So Paul and company went by road to Thessalonica, where Paul’s preaching again stirred resentment from the local Jewish leaders. They gathered a mob and brought charges against Paul. After a friend paid their bond, Paul was released. Paul was taken to Athens, to save his hide, while Silas and Timothy stayed behind in Berea where they had taken refuge.
In Athens Paul spoke with philosophers at the Areopagus (Acts 17:22-32). Paul praised them for their religiosity saying, “I noticed a shrine to an unknown god.” Paul won some interest when he talked about Jesus as that unknown god. But he lost his hearers when he spoke about how Jesus was raised from the dead. Paul did convert Dionysius, Dimaris and a few others.
When Paul moved to Corinth (Acts 18) he met Aquila and Priscilla who were a Jewish couple expelled from Rome by Emperor Claudius. Like Paul, they were tentmakers. So Paul worked with them as a tentmaker and preached on the side. When Silas and Timothy arrived in Corinth from Macedonia, Paul stayed for a year and a half there devoting himself to preaching the Word of God.
This week’s Mass readings from Acts narrate how Paul and companions returned by ship via Ephesus to Syrian Antioch (Acts 18:23-28) where he had begun this, his second missionary journey. It’s an exciting narrative because of all that happened to Paul and his companions.
I invite readers to read the narrative of Paul’s second missionary journey found in Acts 16-18. If your Bible does not have a map, you can find maps online. There is a nice one here. Acts shows that the early Church experienced all sorts of trials.
Considering the issues the Church faces today, Acts 16-18 gives a sense of hope that somehow the Holy Spirit can help God’s people—all of us—muddle through.
Photo Credit: Photoxpress/Mele Avery