And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation. The one who believes and is baptized will be saved; but the one who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: by using my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes in their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”
Today we celebrate the feast of St. Paul, who is arguably the greatest saint who ever lived. Not only did he lead a life that mirrored Christ’s, he also fulfilled Jesus’ commission to make disciples like nobody else has. He traveled all over the world and drew people to Jesus in the thousands. And his impact can be seen in the fact that a third of the New Testament contains the letters he wrote to the various churches he established. His words continue to encourage, inspire and embolden us today.
The words that the church chose for today's reading to celebrate St. Paul's feast is very deliberately taken from the gospel of Mark 16:15-18. I’d like us to listen to them again, paraphrased and slightly abbreviated. Jesus said to his disciples, “Go into the whole world and proclaim the good news to everybody. Those who believe and are baptized will be saved. And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will drive out demons; they will heal the sick; they will work miracles.”
Do we believe the good news? We do? Then why aren’t we performing these signs as Jesus said believers would? The answer is because belief isn’t just declaring that Jesus is God. Belief is believing the things he said and putting them into practice in our lives. Belief is living as he lived. But Jesus was God, you say. Okay, let us accept that he was God, so we can’t live as he lived. How about Paul? Can we live as HE lived? He was man, right, not God, so surely, we should be able to follow his example?
It is what he advised the Philippians to do. He said, "Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice” (Philippians 4:9). He advised the Corinthians the same thing: "Therefore I urge you to imitate me” (1 Corinthians 4:16). But you know what? Paul lived in imitation of Christ! So, he said, “Follow my example, AS I follow the example of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). Now how do we follow somebody’s example? By doing what they did, right?
What did both Christ and Paul do? Well, they practiced solitude, both disappearing to be on their own for prolonged periods of time. They remained in silence for hours. They led a simple and sacrificial life. They spent much time in intense study and meditating upon the word of God. They lived to serve others, often at their own personal expense. Therefore, if we want to lead lives of holiness, power and love, then we have to learn to live as these two did. And we will change the world.
I launch a new series for Christian leaders this week, where I will be talking about these spiritual disciples and many other things at great length. If you wanna be part of it, please register by following the link provided below. On this feast of St. Paul, let us commit ourselves to becoming the Pauls of our generation.