The difficulties that Paul and Barnabas encountered may seem overwhelming to us (see today’s first reading, Acts 14: 19-28). If I had been stoned in one place, or even if I had gotten an inkling that the “Jews” were coming to the cities in order to attack not only my ministry but also attempt to kill me, would I have hung around or returned to those cities? Paul and Barnabas, in fact, do leave for what probably was safer ground, but returned. In each place they proclaimed “the good news,” made “a considerable number of disciples,” “strengthened the spirits of the disciples and exhorted them to persevere in the faith,” reminding them that “it is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God.” Sometimes I forget that living the Gospel life entails hardship. In fact, many times, I attempt to avoid that which is difficult—that is the ego in me. My spirit self follows a different path, namely becoming one with the Lord in living life to the full, including dealing with life’s difficulties in ways that leads to my transformation into Christ and making decisions that are not always pleasant to my ego self. Jesus does not promise that life in Him will be easy. He only promises that He will give me peace. “Not as the world gives do I give it to you,” He says in today’s Gospel, Jn 14: 27-31a.
I learned that recently in that I was out of control in something as mundane as snacking. I’d have a snack when I was bored. I’d have a snack to reward myself after accomplishing a task. I’d have a snack to celebrate another person’s success. Excuses abounded! I denied myself nothing in this regard. The path from my office to the refrigerator was becoming thin bare. I put on 5 lbs in one month and that would have added up to being close to 200 lbs by the end of this year. I resolved to stop the downward spiral and to discipline myself, after all it was Holy Week when I made that decision. I have not snacked between meals since and have relearned the value of discipline, of saying “no” to self-indulgence and “yes” to an ascetical practice. This sacrifice, the result of grace at work within my true self, has not only effected by physical well-being but has affected me spiritually. Perhaps I will deal differently when difficulties arise in other areas of my life, now that I am relearning the positive effects of self-discipline and have strengthened a spiritual “muscle” that I had allowed to atrophy.