On that day a great persecution was unleashed against the church in Jerusalem. They were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except for the apostles. Some pious men buried Stephen and mourned for him. Meanwhile, Saul was making havoc in the church, entering houses, taking men and women by force, and putting them in prison. Those who had been scattered went everywhere proclaiming the Good News of the word. Philip went down to a city of Samaria and began to preach Christ to them. The people listened attentively and with one spirit to what Philip said because they heard and saw the signs he performed. And it happened that unclean spirits came out of many who were possessed, shouting with loud voices, and many paralytics and lame persons were healed. There was great joy in that city.
Persecutions existed from the beginning, they continue to exist and will continue to come….
Unfortunately, we always have to reckon with them, even though there may be calm times. Whether they are interior or exterior struggles, the combat is always there: The light came into the darkness, but the darkness did not comprehend it (cf. Jn 1:5,11). Until the Lord returns at the End of Times, the battle will last. Until then, we Christians must not only resist in our inner-self the temptations of the world, the Devil, and the flesh; we must also reckon with threats to our life, our honor, etc.
This fact can help us to deepen our faith more and more and to be aware that we can never live in this world in comfortable security.
In today’s reading, we hear of a fierce persecution that was unleashed against the church in Jerusalem and of the havoc that, after the stoning of Stephen, was wreaked by Saul of Tarsus, who would later become the Apostle Paul. Thus, the Christians were dispersed….
But we can take note of two important points that happened in this persecution and that God knew how to integrate into His plan of salvation.
The first point is that those who had been scattered announced the gospel wherever they went. Thus, the Good News reached Samaria and Judea. God pursues His goals so that people receive the message of the love of God manifested in Jesus Christ, and, in His wise providence, He knows how to include everything in His plans. Whatever the Devil and those instigated by him intend to do, in the end, their projects will not turn out as they would like, although they certainly bring suffering to the faithful.
This is an important lesson for us so that we do not allow the apparent omnipotence of evil to disturb our spirits and despair over the difficulties that come our way to invade our souls. Rather, we can take a step of faith and say: “If such struggles and persecutions come, however painful they may be, it will be that God is going to work something great”.
This step is important and corresponds to the reality of our faith. With this act, we close the doors to the powers of darkness, so that they cannot exert any concrete influence on our souls. So let us not look at situations only from the perspective of the misfortunes they bring, although we should not take them lightly either. Let us put our trust in God, who is the Lord in each situation, no matter how hopeless it may seem!
The second point that happened from the persecution was that Philip, empowered with special authority, began to conquer people for Christ and the demons had to give way. Healings took place and there was great joy in that city of Samaria.
Let us remember that Jesus, during the time of his earthly life, had wanted to stay in a village of Samaria on His way to Jerusalem, but they did not welcome Him there (cf. Lk. 9:52-53). Now the Samaritans welcome the Lord in their apostle, and listen “attentively and with one spirit” to the words of Philip.
Where there is thick darkness, God sends a great light. In this sense, we can already rejoice in the conversion of Saul of Tarsus, which will happen soon as we follow the Acts of the Apostles chronologically. The persecutor becomes a messenger; persecution ends up serving evangelization; the plans of evil are integrated into the wise working of God.
Come what may, the Lord will always point the way toHis own and, despite all obstacles, the gospel will find a way to reach people.