90 Day Challenge – Day 88

Just Getting Started? Read what you’ve missed and check out Bible reading resources

Bible Time Period: The Church

The Church carries on your work in the world: Make me a faithful ambassador of your love.

Reflection

You may recognize a number of the cities Paul visits on his journeys.  In particular, Philippi (ch 16), Thessalonica, Corinth, and Ephesus stand out because letters he wrote to those communities are preserved in our Bibles as Paul’s Epistles (Letters) to the Philippians, Thessalonians, Corinthians, and Ephesians.  Later on, you may want to return to one or more of these and read them in light of what you know from Acts.

One interesting thing to notice is Paul’s preaching method.  His speech at the Areopagus in Athens (ch 17) is notable for the way he uses their beliefs as a starting point for his message–an approach that can be helpful for us as well, as we share the Gospel with those around us.

Today’s Reading

Acts 17-20

Today’s Question

Read again Paul’s farewell speech at Miletus (20:17-38).  What echoes to you see of Jesus there?

Join the discussion below!

Sarah Christmyer

Sarah Christmyer is co-developer with Jeff Cavins of The Great Adventure Catholic Bible study program. She serves as Strategic Consultant of The Great Adventure and is author or co-author of a number of the studies. Sarah has thirty years of experience leading and teaching Bible studies. She helped launch Catholic Scripture Study and is co-author of "Genesis Part I: God and His Creation" and "Genesis Part II: God and His Family," published by Emmaus Road. Sarah has a BA in English literature from Gordon College in Wenham, MA, and is working toward a Masters of Theology at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia. Raised in a strong evangelical family, she was received into the Catholic Church in 1992. Sarah also writes at comeintotheword.com/.

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  • Janet

    Like Jesus, Paul meets people where they’re at…the Jews with their scriptures and law, the Ephesians with their deities. Paul is given inspiration by the Holy Spirit to begin with what the people know and to build upon this knowledge and belief, circling around to teaching of Jesus and His plan of salvation. Paul doesn’t hit them over the head with the Good News, intimidating them, but by meeting the people where they’re at, he has them at ease and more open to hearing what he has to say. I pray the Holy Spirit can help me to meet people where they’re at when I share the Good News.

    One thing that strikes me that I didn’t notice in the previous posts is Paul telling his fellow disciples that he did all in his power to ensure they had more than ample opportunity to come to know Jesus through his teachings. “And so I solemnly declare to you this day that I am not responsible for the blood of any of you, for I did not shrink from proclaiming to you the entire plan of God.” (Acts 20:26-27) Do we do all we can for those around us that we can say we did not shrink from proclaiming to our little corner of the world the plan of God? I have a long way to go before I can make such a claim, but with the Holy Spirit’s help, and studies such as this that help me better know and grow in my faith, I pray one day I can make such a claim.

  • Margie

    I like Susan’s explanation and don’t feel I can say it any better. Paul was such a strong influence in the early church and many of the Sunday Readings at Mass with Paul’s Letters are still a strong influence. Jesus knew he had this capability to speak, to lead the non-believers and re-affirm the believers to maintain their faith. Jesus was a strong influence for Paul, and Paul is the proof that we too can represent and also lead with the teachings of Jesus.

  • Paul has managed to love Jesus Christ to the point that he gives himself no importance; for him, the only thing that matters is trying to complete the task God has entrusted to him. The Apostle sees holiness as a constant, uninterrupted striving, full of love and good works, towards his encounter with the Lord. We see his indefatigable zeal, journeying from town to town, from country to country, everywhere proclaiming the Gospel. He shows fortitude, patience and humility.

  • Marian Potts

    Paul knew imprisonment and death awaited him but he was faithful to preach the Lord Jesus to all. He was not afraid to speak of Jesus crucified for our redemption. He was bold and courageous He was confident of the message that he was to preach for the salvation of the world.
    The world needs to hear the gospel again. We are to continue that mission.

  • Susan

    Reading these chapters in Acts I feel I am reading not only the final years of Jesus’ ministry but also it is reminiscent of some of the earlier salvation history of which we read. As it relates to Paul in his speech

    • Margie

      Susan I like how you explained what I was thinking as I finished these chapters. Paul was chosen by Jesus to spread the word and what a wise choice he was. He spoke so eloquently it is no wonder so many followed the teachings of Jesus. Now I understand why the majority of our Readings at Mass are from Letters by Paul. He still touches so many souls.

  • pnkyB4brain

    What an astounding comparison of Jesus’ public life and Paul’s life as a missionary. Jesus knew what would happen to him in Jerusalem, yet He went there anyway. Paul does not know his outcome but with the help of the holy spirit he will go to preach the good news about Jesus. Paul also directed the believers to look toward God for guidance and total commitment and to ask for the grace to receive these gifts with open arms. These new converts were to guide and teach other converts the teachings of Our Lord.

    “Keep watch over yourselves and over the whole flock of which the holy Spirit has appointed you overseers, in which you tend the church of God that he acquired with his own blood.” Acts 20:28

    This is so reminiscent of what Jesus said to His disciples when they were overcome by the Holy Spirit. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20

  • Elaine Boone

    First, let me wish all of you a most blessed and Holy Week! There are many similarities between Christ’s and Paul’s ministries of evangelization. Just as Christ was born to fulfill his mission of redemption for all peoples, Paul gladly proclaimed publicly God’s plan of salvation to the Jews and Gentiles. Because of his faithfulness to his ministry, he risked his life as Christ did, bearing witness for Gentiles and Jews to repentance before God and to faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. He accepted with humility whatever suffering he was subjected to because of nonbelievers’ hatred and jealousy. He considered life of no importance compared to his commitment to loving God and His message of love and service to others. Before he left the community of Miletus and the presbyters from Ephesus, he gave them final encouragement and instruction to carry on without him and prayed with them, knowing they would never see each other again. I’m sure they mourned Paul’s departure just as the Apostles grieved Christ’s ascension into heaven. Paul was a wonderful model to all of us of Christlike love and devotion to his flock.

  • Fisher

    Just as Jesus was hounded by a pack of rabid rabbinical leaders seeking to discredit and ultimately tear him apart, so was Paul followed from town to town on his third mission journey.
    Just as Jesus knew he had to get to Jerusalem despite the agony that awaited him there, so was Paul compelled to get there knowing he was sure to endure hardship.
    Just as Jesus tasked the apostles to “go and make disciples of all nations,”

  • Barbara Ann Baugh

    It is after three years, Paul has been with his followers now the Holy Spirit calls Paul to Jersulam. Paul is aware of the hardships that still await him like Jesus was aware of the Death He would face. I particularly noted that Paul warned of false prophets coming from the group.
    I am feeling somewhat like Paul’s followers. There are only two more days of this Bible Study and the two Bible Studies at Church ended last week. Of course, I am going to continue reading the Bible, one Chapter a day, on my own guided by the Holy Spirit but I feel I lack the insights of others.

    • Avila

      I feel the same way. However, I have neglected a bit too much to complete this as it takes at least an hour a day (which is fast for me). So as sad as I feel, I will take up my cross of housework, gardening etc and visit the other offerings on this site. Hopefully we will all bump into each other there.

      • Michelle

        I too will miss this site and each of your valuable insights into our mission here on Earth to share and live out the Good News. Each of you help me to feel more empowered in my faith and confident in sharing my new found knowledge with others.

        • Beverly Hagar-Schmerse

          I, for one, am going to ask the Holy Spirit to bring me into another program to further my growth toward God…How about you?

          • Michelle

            What a beautiful idea, Beverly!

          • jacqueline

            I pray that there is going to be something, maybe a continuation, possibly on the books we didn’t cover? Otherwise, I will try to read a couple of chapters a day to get more acquainted with scripture.

          • Barbara Ann Baugh

            Well the Holy Spirit brought me here, I definately plan to continue reading one chapter of the Bible a day Did you know that know that Sarah Christmyer has a blog. I have been following her reflections on the Seven Penitential Psalms here is the link: http://comeintotheword.com/?tag=penitential-Psalms

          • Avila

            Ditto. The diocese may be offering the 24 week course, so I will go for that. Much as I enjoy the face to face, I am blessed in receiving the insights that the Holy Spirit moves you all to share. But I will do the course and hopefully overcome the excruciatingly painful moments when we are expected to socialise (I’m okay doing things or in discussions).

          • Beverly Hagar-Schmerse

            Well, we are all individually created by God…He knows us best and what we need…ours is to be open to what is the Spirit brings before us…sometimes that may not be comfortable, but be the best thing for us.

  • rob fallon

    Paul is indeed a warrior for Christ spreading the good news to the ends of the earth. He fully understands the pain and suffering he must endure along the “Way” yet with the help of the Holy Spirit perseveres and completes his mission. I am drawn to the connection between Paul’s mission and Christ’s Passion. He indeed was able to drink from the “cup”.

  • Beverly Hagar-Schmerse

    I, too, Avila, was struck by how Paul started where the people were at, to begin to teach them about Jesus…I didn’t know, either that Paul taught this way…This is also the way Jesus taught…Paul learned this, I guess, at the feet of Jesus and the apostles, even though he, himself, had no direct acquaintance with the living Jesus…and we can see this today, in the way certain people teach us. If you think about a good teacher that you have had, a priest/deacon that has given a great sermon, this style of teaching always comes through…I am beginning to think that it is the Holy Spirit allowing them to “teach as Jesus did”…when I started teaching I asked God to allow me to “teach as Jesus did”, and when I allowed the Spirit to take control, so went the teaching…when I got in the way, the Spirit was hampered. It seems to me it is always a matter of letting God take the wheel, so to speak.

    • Barbara Ann Baugh

      One of the priests at my parish gets his inspiration from painting. First he paints a picture of what he wants to say then he writes the homily. He reproduces the painting and gives it out to the people. I often use the pictures to remember the homily. In contemplating the painting I often gain insights that were not there when I heard the homily.

    • Michelle

      I absolutely agree. As I have mentioned before, I teach our high school youth group and often find the lessons I plan out down to specific words and phrases are much more ineffective than those in which I have a basic outline and let the Holy Spirit take the lead. It just shows when I am left to and depend on my own devices I am prone to verbose banter which may be described as babbling. When I let God take the lead it is quite a different lesson!

  • Avila

    As I read these chapters, I was struck by Paul’s style of evangelisation. First he appealed to the Jews using Scripture to explain who Jesus is, then he found a starting point for the Gentiles. Sometimes it simply said he spoke to the Gentiles, so I wonder if they were people who were searching but did not know until Paul spoke, that they were searching for God. When they came across someone with only knowledge of John, he was taken aside and catechised, thereby building on what he had. In Athens, Paul showed respect for the pagan beliefs (Acts 17:22), building on those beliefs and drawing them rationally to Jesus. I know this is nothing to do with the discussion question, but for the first time it really struck me that Paul didn’t just wander about preaching. He had a clear, well-organised (by God of course) mission and was given the gift of wisdom and eloquence in his preaching.

    Another thing that struck me was the power, not just of miracles but of faith. Imagine burning thousands of pounds/dollars of treasured possessions and abandoning your trade? The people who burned the books of magic (Acts 19:19) truly “gave it all up for Jesus” and I cannot even guess at the rejoicing in Heaven. Pope Francis is calling us to be as enthusiastic as the early Christians, who were growing in faith, eager to learn, put into practice their faith and share it, as well as supporting their communities. Unlike the early Christians we have a huge wealth of writings and resources, however, like some of the Jews, it can be difficult to take the next step.

    To the discussion question. Paul followed Jesus’ example by leaving words of encouragement, explaining that when he leaves, they are to carry on the lifelong work of spreading the Gospel. He is preparing them to be strong and rely on God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and not simply on a human person (in this case Paul). In the same way, we have to adjust when a loved priest moves parish – we mourn his going and then joyfully welcome the new priest. The change in priest, bishop or pope, does not alter the faith or Gospel message, but it changes the way it is presented or perceived by us through the gifts given by the Holy Spirit.

    • Liza

      This is a great summary. I am thinking about Pope Francis exhorting us to be as enthusiastic as these early Christians. One of the things I know is I do not feel the Love of Christ in my relationships in church. I wonder why we have lost that deep love and affection for each other (they clung on to Paul as he said farewell). Possibly because we do not truly depend on each other for prayers, for financial support, for love in the face of dreadful and dangerous challenges. A suggestion: to show more openness than we have before with our fellow parishioners and priests and step out in faith more in our secular world.

    • Michelle

      Phew, after your lovely response I won’t even attempt. I will add a thought that came to my mind. I was watching the news the other evening and the host was talking about children and Jesus. If our children are not learning of Jesus in their own homes and definitely not in our public schools where are they to learn about Jesus and eternal salvation? I got a lump in my throat thinking surely this can’t be. My teenage daughter confirmed this sad truth. She said in several of her classes (English and History) many students were unfamiliar with basic Bible stories such as Noah and Jesus. We are living in an ever increasing secular society so I would say we each need to be modern day Paul’s sharing God’s message with those we encounter. We must be willing to accept criticism from those who aren’t open to the Truth but not let this deter us in our quest to share the Truth with others. Truly, what better mission can their be than to share Jesus’ love for each of us with others and the hope of eternal salvation.