Thursday of the Sixth Week of Easter
(Acts 18:1-8; John 16:16-22)
The readings from the Acts of the Apostles at mass these days have covered a lot of territory, principally by skipping over accounts of Paul’s missions. On Monday and Tuesday we heard of Paul’s establishing a beachhead in Europe at the town of Philippi. Not being a critical center of commerce, Paul pushes on to Thessalonica, a provincial capital. He establishes a church community there, but the Jews almost literally kick him and his companions out. The Jews of Beroea, the next missionary stop recorded in Acts, give Paul a much fairer hearing until their kinsmen from Thessalonica arrive. Next, Acts records Paul’s flop in Athens, about which we heard in yesterday’s mass. Today’s reading shows Paul having arrived in Corinth, his ultimate destination on this missionary expedition.
One student of St. Paul thinks Corinth a much more strategic place than Athens. He compares Athens to a library given to safeguarding old ideas and Corinth to a marketplace open to new ones. It is definitely a crossroads of commerce from which ideas might spread throughout the Mediterranean world. Paul establishes himself by working as a tentmaker in the shop of Aquila and Priscilla, who become critical mission collaborators. Providing his own bread frees Paul of suspicion the people perennially have of evangelists seeking personal gain. Still Paul needs a patron to provide a place for Sunday worship. Fortunately, he will make the right connection.
It may seem like Paul goes from town to town haphazardly preaching to whoever lends an ear. More likely, he makes deliberate choices on where to go and how to proceed. Since he believes that Christ’s return is imminent, out of love he wants to prepare as many people as possible to receive him. We must see this as God’s plan with the Holy Spirit prompting Paul to act. As Paul eventually realizes, the coming of the Lord is not as near as once thought but still the urgency remains to prepare the world for Christ. As our own times amply testify, all people need to embrace Christ’s message of love, mercy, and forbearance.