THURSDAY THE ELEVENTH OF OCTOBER, 2018
* Philip the Deacon *
Lord, give us weak eyes for things which are of no account
and clear eyes for all your truth. Amen.
( Søren Kierkegaard, 1813-1855 )
O the precious gospel story, how it tells of love to all;
how the Saviour in compassion, died to save us from the fall;
how he came to seek the lost ones and to bring them to his fold;
let us hasten to proclaim it, for the story must be told.
O the blessed gospel story of his meek and lowly birth
and the welcome of the angels when they sang good will to earth;
of the cross, on which he suffered, as by prophets seen of old;
of his death and resurrection, let the story now be told.
O the wondrous gospel story; there is life in every word;
there is hope and consolation, where the message sweet is heard;
let us tell it to the weary and its beauties all unfold;
it is the only guide to heaven and the story must be told.
( Fanny Crosby, 1820–1915 )
MEDITATION by Tim Madsen
Philip the Deacon: snatched away by the Lord
Today Saint Laika’s remembers Phillip the Deacon, early minister of the gospel. In the sixth chapter of "Acts," we read that the apostles commissioned seven men in the congregation at Jerusalem to supervise the church's ministry to the needs of its widows and other poor. This is generally considered to be the beginning of the office of deacon in the Church, although the scriptures do not use this term in referring to the original seven men. Two of these have gained lasting fame. One was Stephen, who became the Church's first martyr. The other was Philip, whose story we find in "Acts," chapter eight, verses five to forty.
After the death of Stephen, there was a general persecution of the Church at Jerusalem and many Christians fled to escape it. Philip fled to Samaria, where he preached the gospel to the Samaritans, a group who had split off from the Jewish people about six centuries earlier, had intermarried with other peoples and were considered outsiders by most Jews. They received the message with eagerness and soon Peter and John came to Samaria to bless the new converts. After this, Philip was sent by God to walk along the road from Jerusalem southwest to Gaza, where he met a eunuch of the Queen of Ethiopia returning home after worshipping in Jerusalem. The man was reading from "Isaiah," chapter fifty-three ("He was wounded for our transgressions"), and Philip told him about Jesus and persuaded him that the words were a prophecy of the saving work of Jesus. The man was baptised, and went on his way rejoicing, while Philip went north to Caesarea, the major seaport of Israel, and its secular capital.
When Paul (accompanied by Luke) was going up to Jerusalem for the last time, he paused at Caesarea and spent several days with Philip. This may be the source of some of the information Luke used in writing the early chapters of Acts. We are told that Philip had four daughters who prophesied.
It is good to remember that Luke was not writing history when he wrote the "Book of Acts." A story like this is easy to over-romanticise. Luke wanted Christians to be encouraged by the vigorous manifestations of the Holy Spirit which guided the followers of Jesus in these early years. But we ought to honour people like Philip for the persistence of their faith when having faith in Jesus led to constant disruptions in their social relationships and family life. It was on such hard work and commitment to the cause that the Christian church emerged out of Israel and spread to all the towns and villages of the Roman empire.
Scripture. In the eighth chapter of "Acts," after Philip had baptised the Ethiopian we read in verses thirty-nine and forty:
When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; the eunuch saw him no more and went on his way rejoicing. But Philip found himself at Azotus and, as he was passing through the region, he proclaimed the good news to all the towns until he came to Caesarea.
... for peace in the world.
... for evangelists and itinerant preachers; for all who leave their homes to spread abroad the good news of Jesus Christ.
... for the Christians of Ethiopia, that they may stay strong in their ancient faith and continue to proclaim the gospel of Christ in their nation.
... that the Holy Spirit may enable us to communicate our Christian faith to others with conviction and persuasiveness.
... for girls throughout the world, that they may be free from the gender-based inequalities that presently prevent them from realising their potential and pursuing their hopes and dreams. DETAILS
... for an end to the taboos and bigotry surrounding sexuality and gender identification so that all LGBT people, wherever they live, can openly be themselves. DETAILS
... for Jason and all whose property was damaged by Hurricane Michael.
... for those killed, injured or made homeless by a flash flood on the Spanish island of Majorca. DETAILS
... for those killed or injured when an overloaded bus travelling from the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, to Kisumu, in the west, veered off the road. DETAILS
... for those who have died recently and for those who mourn their passing.
... for those who are unwell and for those caring for them.
... for those, both close to us and far off, who we hold in our personal prayers.
... for ourselves.
THE LORD'S PRAYER
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours now and for ever. Amen.
From "Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel)" by Pope Francis:
Lastly, we cannot forget that evangelisation is first and foremost about preaching the Gospel to those who do not know Jesus Christ or who have always rejected him. Many of them are quietly seeking God, led by a yearning to see his face, even in countries of ancient Christian tradition. All of them have a right to receive the Gospel. Christians have the duty to proclaim the Gospel without excluding anyone. Instead of seeming to impose new obligations, they should appear as people who wish to share their joy, who point to a horizon of beauty and who invite others to a delicious banquet. It is not by proselytising that the Church grows, but by attraction.
John Paul II asked us to recognise that “there must be no lessening of the impetus to preach the Gospel” to those who are far from Christ, “because this is the first task of the Church." Indeed, “today missionary activity still represents the greatest challenge for the Church” and “the missionary task must remain foremost."
What would happen if we were to take these words seriously? We would realise that missionary outreach is paradigmatic for all the Church’s activity. Along these lines the Latin American bishops stated that we “cannot passively and calmly wait in our church buildings;" we need to move “from a pastoral ministry of mere conservation to a decidedly missionary pastoral ministry”. This task continues to be a source of immense joy for the Church:
“Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” (Lk 15:7)
Holy God, no one is excluded from your love and your truth transforms the minds of all who seek you: as your servant Philip was led to embrace the fullness of your salvation and to bring the stranger to baptism, so give us all the grace to be heralds of the gospel, proclaiming your love in Jesus Christ our saviour, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil and bring us to everlasting life. Amen.
NOW LIGHT A CANDLE
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