Today’s scripture from the Book of Acts presents Paul in the midst of his missionary adventures. St. Paul is joined on his adventures by a young man named Timothy, whose father was Greek and his mother was an Israelite. Timothy gives his life over to Christ. Christ gives Timothy over to Paul to be his friend and helper.
The Book of Acts testifies that Timothy accepted circumcision so that he might be a more effective missionary to both Greek and Israelites. This is no mere detail, but a statement about Timothy’s commitment and character. He was ready and willing to serve Christ, even if it meant enduring physical discomfort and pain. Timothy did not have to be circumcised in order to be faithful to Christ and a member of the Church, but he accepted circumcision so that he might be more effective in his mission. The mission was Timothy’s priority, not his comfort or self-interest.
What are we willing to endure or sacrifice for the sake of the mission Christ has given us?
It is likely we will not be asked to endure the kinds of things or make the kinds of sacrifices that St. Paul, Timothy and the earliest apostles and disciples were asked to accept, but it is inevitable that Christ will ask something of us. The willingness to offer small sacrifices now can help to prepare us to larger sacrifices in the future.
There is another detail in today’s scripture from the Book of Acts that is worthy of note. St. Paul has a visionary dream in which a Greek from Macedonia asks that Paul come to his region to evangelize. Macedonia is in northern Greece, it is the territory where Alexander the Great was from.
Provoked by the dream, Paul and Timothy resolve to set off for Macedonia.
This is not an insignificant detail.
St. Paul’s decision to go west, out of the eastern territories of the Roman Empire, would prove to be a decisive move that would change the course of civilization. St. Paul might not have perceived it at the time, but his movement west to evangelize would ultimately change the world.
There is a dynamic movement of the Church through its missionaries recorded in the Book of Acts- from Jerusalem throughout the near east and then with St. Paul, towards the west and Rome, and from Rome, out into the whole world. The Church is not meant to be limited to a single place or the possession of a single people. The Church is Christ’s gift to the world, the privileged bearer of his life and presence. It is supposed to move outward until the end of time, venturing forth, and fulfilling its purpose to introduce people to Jesus Christ and invite them to share in the unique way of life he offers to all people.
Thus, the Church is not nor can it be our own private club meant to serve only the needs of its members. This would be a distortion of what Christ intends the Church to be, and when a narrowing of the Church is attempted, the Church falters and fails. Our mission territory may not be Macedonia, but it is the neighborhood in which we live. How many people in our own neighborhood are we introducing to Christ and inviting to share his way of life in his Church?
The Church is essentially missionary by nature. The great missionary adventure is meant to be our adventure, the adventure that belongs to every disciple of the Lord Jesus. What St. Paul and St. Timothy did, we are now supposed to do!