Closed door, open window – Saturday, 4th Week in Easter- Acts 13:44-52
We are in Antioch of Pisidia, modern day Turkey, and Paul and Barnabas have just completed preaching in the synagogue on the Sabbath. The message of these two missionaries hit home hard, for we are told that “people begged that these things might be told to them the next Sabbath” and that “many Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas.”
The next Sabbath, almost the whole city gathered together at the synagogue and Paul and Barnabas came to preach at the invitation of the people. For a preacher who truly wants to promote the word of God and not just himself, such an audience must have been a delight. But what delights one, may only bring jealousy to another.
The Jews, on seeing the multitudes, were filled with jealousy, and contradicted what was spoken by Paul and reviled him. We are not told who these Jews were but I strongly suspect they were the leaders of the synagogue. I was once told by a fellow priest to watch out for clerical jealousy (come on, the clergy are not spared of Satan’s traps). In cautioning me he said, “Clerical jealousy is deadly, it goes for the jugular.” This is something I have never forgotten for its reality has been experienced by me.
Jealousy was not only the prerogative of the Jews in Antioch of Pisidia, for the same word appears even in the opening chapters of Acts in response to the healing and preaching brought about by Peter and the Apostles. It is jealousy that satan uses to destroy the Church from within, and he often uses the most unsuspecting characters. In this case he used the Jewish leaders who poisoned the minds of the “the women of prominence who were worshipers and the leading men of the city.” Think of this as equivalent of our daily mass going women and the parish council, and you will recognise that the potential of causing confusion by poisoning such minds is deadly enough to cause immense damage!
It is important then that we always discern what we are told. Information is always subjective, and discernment is that quiet moment with God by which we evaluate if this is His will, or are we being led astray unintentionally; even by religious leadership who themselves are being led astray by satan ? Paul and Barnabas were not ones to cower down to human pressure; they spoke truth to power even though these powers “stirred up a persecution against Paul and Barnabas and expelled them from their territory.”
They say that when a door is closed, God opens a window and as a consequence of this, God opened the window of faith to the Gentiles. Scripture tells us that, “the Gentiles were delighted when they heard this and glorified the word of the Lord. All who were destined for eternal life came to believe, and the word of the Lord continued to spread.”
For most of us, such rejection would have set us back by a mile in our fervour for God and ministry. Not so for Paul and Barnabas! The point I am making is that feelings of rejection often cloud our mind because we see it as a personal rejection and fail to realise that our ministry is His work. While I don’t like to give undue importance to satan, to pretend his non-existence, would be a greater folly!
It is he who is most active where the Word is most active and hence the constant evaluation and discernment of our thoughts and feelings is necessary as we progress on our Christian journey; for an un-reflected life is not worth living.
Fr Warner D’Souza