In today’s passage from the Acts of the Apostles we see Barnabas and Paul in a ticklish situation. After seeing a lame man walk, the people acclaim the two apostles as gods in human form. The people even name them "Zeus" and "Hermes". When Barnabas and Paul realize what is happening they speak to the crowd. "We proclaim to you good news that you should turn from these idols to the living God, who made heaven and earth and sea and all that is in them."
As I reflect on this passage, I realize how often I create my own "gods" and idols rather than partake in the life of the Spirit of God. I also realize why I and so many of us create our own gods; what we create, we can control. It is far easier for me to follow my own self-made gods than to follow the movement of God’s Spirit in my life. Following the urgings of the Holy Spirit means I have to follow the teachings of Jesus. The Gospel passage spells it out for us.
"I have told you this while I am with you. The Advocate, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name; he will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you." Yes, it’s much easier to create my own gods than to follow the teachings of Jesus! It is easier to ignore injustice in my world than to speak up in protest. It is easier to pile up money than to risk giving it away to those in poverty. It is easier to fill my life with gadgets, property, addictions and assorted distracting "stuff" than to truly listen to God’s Spirit every day in prayer.
Creating new gods in my life is easy. I do it all the time. Following the challenge of loving God and my neighbors is tough. Before I dismiss the crowds who wanted to make Paul and Barnabas "gods", I probably ought to remember the "gods" I create every day to bring me comfort and a sense of control. I need to remember the verse from the Gospel of John every day.
"The Holy Spirit will teach you everything and remind you of all I told you."
Terry McDevitt, Ph.D. is a member of our Passionist Family who volunteers at the Passionist Assisted Living Community in Louisville, Kentucky.