“Instead they had some issues with him about their own religion, and about a certain Jesus who had died.” (Acts 25:19)
Imagine, 2,000 years ago, a ragtag collection of social outcasts, zealots, and lower class riff raff running after the image of the freshly crucified Jesus of Nazareth, calling the carpenter from Nazareth “God,” and confounding the ruling authorities not because their stories were so impressive or eye catching, but because they were so weird.
I can imagine this guy, Festus, a mid-level government bureaucrat scratching his head over an interred prisoner and wondering why the state is paying to keep him imprisoned when instead of bringing pertinent charges against him, his accusers keep arguing about doctrinal differences.
You can almost hear the world-weary sigh when he brings it up with King Aggripa a few days into his visit to Cesarea. The men hear Saint Paul out, mildly intrigued by unmoved. And guess what?
It gets Saint Paul nowhere. He isn’t granted a royal pardon. The king doesn’t fall to his knees and accept Jesus as his Lord and Savior. They just kind of squint at him and decide, “eh, he’s a little crazy” and send him on his way to Rome, where he will preach and write and minister to the Body of Christ there during his long years of imprisonment until finally, finally he makes his appeal to Ceasar and is . . . beheaded.
It’s not exactly a rags-to-riches story.
Too often I fall into the trap of the health and wealth gospel, seeing God as a kind of divine vending machine who will deliver the desired outcomes of my plaintive prayers if only I can put the right coinage (prayer, fasting, right living, just plain needing Him) in.
It doesn’t work that way.
He wants mission hearts on fire with the truth, in love with humanity, and, quite frankly, oblivious to obvious signs of success.
Because in this world—in this lifetime—those signs might not appear.
I wonder if Saint Paul was so in love with Jesus that he didn’t mind looking objectively foolish, in the eyes of the world.
And I wonder if that un-self consciousness is at the heart of what it takes to become a Saint. If so, then Lord, I want more. More of Saint Paul’s boldness but, possibly more importantly, more of his humility.
How can I be less self-conscious and more foolish in love with the Lord?
Jenny Uebbing is a freelance writer and editor for Catholic News Agency. She lives in Denver, Colorado with her husband Dave and their small army of toddlers. You can find out more about her faith, thoughts on bioethics, and potty training failures here.