Generosity and sacrifice
“…the living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them…has not left himself without a witness in doing good – giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, and filling you with food and your hearts with joy” (NRSV, Acts 14:15,17)
Paul, accompanied by Barnabas, was on his first missionary expedition, around 17 years after Our Lord’s Crucifixion and Resurrection. He had set sail from a port in northern Syria and after landing in Cyprus and traversing the length of the island, had embarked again and sailed across to the southern coast of what is now Turkey. The two missionaries quickly pushed into the interior and after a series of adventures found themselves in a town called Lystra.
The people in that part of the world were Celts who had originally come from the Danube lands. The only claims to civilisation which Lystra had were that it was a Roman colony with a garrison of Roman troops, and that it possessed an ancient Greek temple dedicated to Zeus the King of the gods.
At the outer gates of this temple a beggar was sitting, a man crippled from birth. When St Paul suddenly and dramatically healed him, the local inhabitants were so impressed and astonished that they concluded that Barnabas was none other than Zeus himself, and that Paul was Hermes, the eloquent messenger of the gods. And the temple priest himself appeared and prepared to offer sacrifice to them.