Acts 11:19-26

April 28, 2015

Saint Peter Chanel, Priest and Martyr

The hand of the Lord was with them. (Acts 11:21)

History is filled with unlikely pairings that work amazingly well. Think, for instance, about food pairings: bacon and chocolate, caramel and salt, or bananas on pizza. Or think about how opposites often attract in marriage: the slob and the neat freak, for example.

Well, in ancient Antioch, another kind of pairing, but no less unique, appeared: Jews and Greeks sharing the same religious convictions. Historically, there was a great enmity between these two groups, and in a city as big as Antioch, they could have easily kept to themselves. There were plenty of synagogues to go around, as well as more than enough Greek temples. Yet in the midst of this divided city, the Holy Spirit touched the hearts of Jews and Gentiles alike, making them into “Christians” (Acts 11:26).

When word reached the apostles and elders in Jerusalem, they were intrigued and perhaps a bit skeptical. Would the Gentiles dilute the purity of the Jews’ faith? Would the Jews look down on their Gentile brothers and sisters? Such a potentially volatile and delicate situation needed some attention. So they sent Barnabas to study the situation. Though this was clearly a unique pairing, Barnabas could see that it was God’s doing, so he “rejoiced and encouraged them all to remain faithful to the Lord” (Acts 11:23).

Just as the Holy Spirit created an unlikely pairing in Antioch, he is doing something similar today. He is encouraging Christians from different faith traditions to come together and pray for greater unity. For example, in a video he recorded on a Protestant pastor’s iPhone, Pope Francis addressed a gathering of Pentecostal leaders. “Let’s move forward,” he urged them. “We are brothers; let us give each other that spiritual embrace and allow the Lord to complete the work he has begun.”

Whenever Christians from different traditions, whether in ancient Antioch or in the cyberspace of today, come together, it’s a sign that “the hand of the Lord” is at work (Acts 11:21). Today, let’s all pray for Christian unity. May we become witnesses of our own unique pairings with our brothers and sisters in Christ!

“Holy Spirit, thank you for my brothers and sisters of all faith traditions. Come and make us one!”

Psalm 87:1-7; John 10:22-30