If one of you has a word of exhortation for the people, please speak

Similar to our celebration of the Mass, Jewish synagogue services in Jesus’ time included readings from the Scriptures followed by a homily.   Usually, the rabbi or one of the elders spoke, but he could also invite visitors or respected members of his community to offer their thoughts instead.   This is what happened to Paul and Barnabas in today’s first reading.   The elders in Pisidian Antioch, recognizing them as learned men, called for a “word of exhortation” that would edify the congregation (Acts 13:15).   So Paul accepted the invitation.

We often glance over stories like these.    Of course, Paul, the brave apostle to the Gentiles, would preach!   But there is more to Paul than his apostolic commission.   This is the same man who had devoted himself to rounding up Christians in the hope of having them killed.   Surely the memories of his past life would have come back to Paul every now and then.   Surely he would sometimes hear a voice inside his head saying,   What makes you think you are qualified to talk about Jesus?   You hated him and his followers.

Paul felt worthy to preach, not because he was faultless, but because he had been forgiven.   It was not because of his own speaking skills but because of his confidence in the power of his message.   Rather than dwelling on past sins, he focused on God’s mercy.   And when he did consider his shortcomings, they only served to highlight the goodness of God even more.

Do you have a “word of exhortation” that you’d like to share with a friend or family member?   Go ahead and say it!   Don’t let your past get in the way.   Have you committed some sins in your life?   Yes, and some of them might even be big, embarrassing ones.    But these transgressions can help convince you of the power of God’s love and mercy.   They can become the fuel for your courage and humility.

Words—especially words of exhortation—must be spoken in order to be heard.   Don’t keep the news of God’s goodness all to yourself.   You may not be a great apostle—at least not yet—but you can share from your heart about what Jesus means to you.   And that will make all the difference.

Word Among Us