Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that took place over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, and they spoke the word to no one except Jews. But among them were some men of Cyprus and Cyrene who, on coming to Antioch, spoke to the Hellenists also, proclaiming the Lord Jesus. The hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number became believers and turned to the Lord.
News of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he came and saw the grace of God, he rejoiced, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast devotion; for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were brought to the Lord. Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for an entire year they met with the church and taught a great many people, and it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called “Christians.”
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations
Today’s reading from Acts tells the story of the first believers to call themselves Christians in Antioch. They were persecuted from without and divided within, but drawn together by the power of the Spirit. Being a Christian then as now means overcoming internal and external strife through the power of the Spirit. Acts tells us that many of the Christians in Antioch came there after the martyrdom of Stephen in Jerusalem [Acts 8:1-4]. There was division in the Church of Antioch, whether to preach only to Jews or also to Gentiles. Many Gentiles accepted God’s word and the community came to see that God’s word is for all.
By the power of the Spirit the Church of Antioch overcame persecution and internal division to show Christ to the world. The call for the today’s Church is the same. The same Spirit shows the way.
Above all trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something unknown, something new.
And yet it is the law of all progress that it is made by passing through some stages
of instability—and that it may take a very long time.
And so I think it is with you:
your ideas mature gradually—let them grow,
let them shape themselves, without undue haste.
Don’t try to force them on,
as though you could be today what time
(that is to say, grace and circumstances
acting on your own good will)
will make of you tomorrow.
Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming within you will be.
Give our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.
—Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J. Excerpted from Hearts on Fire: Praying with Jesuits, © 1993Institute of Jesuit Sources, St. Louis MO
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