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Looking Intently

I am struck by the dichotomous nature of today’s First Reading. In the begin of the story, we hear of Saints Paul and Barnabas being forcefully driven out of Iconium by those who wanted them killed for sharing the Good News (Acts 14:5) And at the end of the story, we find them frustrated by the pedestal they have been placed on in Lystra by those who did not understand in Whose name they were able to perform miracles. (Acts 14:14)

Yet in the middle of this tale, where one city hates these men and one city deifies them, we get a glimpse into a tender moment of compassion and healing between Saint Paul and the crippled man, whose name we do not know. It is not the miracle of the man being able to walk that most catches my attention, but rather the moment before, wherein Paul “looks intently at him.”

A “cripple” during this time would have been an outcast. Many in the community may have assumed his suffering was the result of his sin or that of his family and others likely feared his ailment was contagious. It is doubtful that this man would have received much human contact, much less the kind that Paul graciously shared on that day in Lystra.

At different points in my life, I have had the privilege of working with people experiencing homelessness and have been told on several occasions the immense gratitude our sisters and brothers feel when a person chooses to look at them as they walk by rather than avoiding eye contact and pretending they do not exist.

There is great power in the simple gesture of meeting someone’s eyes and recognizing their humanity and thus God-given dignity. We see that power turn to miracle today in Acts, and I would argue we see that power every time we choose to share a smile or a hello with those we meet throughout our day, whether they are experiencing homelessness or not. Christ set the example for cherishing all of God’s people, Paul followed that example, and now it is our turn, sisters.

Whose life can we brighten today by a seemingly simple act of love? Who, crippled by loneliness or depression, can we help walk out of the dark and into the Light?

Sarah Stanley is a small town Ohio girl who is mildly obsessed with all things Ignatian and is very passionate about faith, social justice, and the intersection of the two. She recently earned her Master of Divinity and now serves as the Director of Christian Service at a high school in New England. When she’s not working, she enjoys contagious laughter, travel, clever puns, and finding the good in all things. You can find out more about her here.

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