SAINTS MARK, BARNABAS, PETER, PAUL, STEPHEN, LUKE AND ANOTHER TIMELINE MIRACLE & FIG AND GOAT CHEESE CROSTINI

*AHHHHHHHHH* Everyone remain perfectly calm. And by “everyone,” I mean me. God did it to me again — hid a miracle along my personal (not social media) timeline. Like He did when I experienced an Awakening on May 10, 2017. And by “God,” I mean, Jesus, Father, Holy Spirit, Blessed Mother Mary, and all the Saints and Angels, because really, I can only imagine how all this is working. I’m not sure at all. But, I do know that everything connects.

So back during the middle of 2016 when I was writing about the Gospel Saints for Grow Christians, I noticed how important some of these Saints were to each other as I researched them separately in Acts. I wrote a blog about it and posted it to Saints and Recipes on Blogger, but didn’t transfer it to Word Press when I switched because it didn’t fit either my Saint Biography or my Spiritual Journey categories.

Today, I’m in the middle of studying St. Luke, author of the Gospel of Luke and Acts. I’m having a difficult time, because Luke’s Gospel and Acts are such a large percentage of my source material for many of the Gospel Saints. I mean, he even writes about himself in Acts.

Okay, here’s why I’m freaking out. On August 11 of this year, during contemplative prayer, I experienced a vision and a message from Blessed Mother Mary. I contacted an artist friend, Kim Beller, described my vision, and commissioned her to paint it, because Blessed Mother Mary let me know that it was the cover of my spiritual journey memoir that I should title, “Connections.” I’ve been writing it in snippets or chapters on FB. Which is weird, because that’s not how I usually write. Why am I putting it out there like that? I dunno, but I believe Blessed Mother Mary knows.

What’s funny is that I’ve been arguing with my muse about my writing this book. It’s funny because I don’t want to write about myself before I write about her and the other Gospel Saints. It’s like I was telling her, no I won’t do what you want me to do because I want to honor you first. And she’s all, honey, honor me by doing what I tell you to do. And I’m, No. I really don’t think I can do that. And then. And then, Holy Mother of God! Look what she did.

She sent me back in time via my Saints and Recipes archives in MS Word to this post:

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

COMPILINGS TWO: GROWING SAINTS MARK, BARNABAS, PETER & PAUL

I learned early on in my study of the saints that Jesus Christ is highly instrumental in the making of a saint. It’s not just the holy person’s true, abiding, unfailing love and striving towards Jesus, but that He actually takes part in guiding, influencing, and, especially during the gospel era, communicating directly.

But what I had not realized until just this past month as I worked on writing assignments for Grow Christians was how vitally important other people were along the journey to sainthood. I wonder if Paul and Mark would even be saints without Barnabas, or if Peter’s version of Jesus’s ministry would be so clearly known to us without Mark’s Gospel.

The interconnectivity of their life stories and their influence upon each other is clear and inspiring: (What the?! Who the?! Do you see it? Connections.)

St. Mark the Evangelist was one of the 70 Apostles of Jesus Christ, author of the Gospel of Mark, and the father of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, Egypt. He suffered a martyr’s death in 68 A.D. and his feast day is April 25.

Although ancient scrolls offer no certainty, it’s traditionally believed St. Mark was the young adult son of the woman who hosted the Last Supper, he assisted in serving the meal, and he was a witness to the Crucifixion, Resurrection, and Pentecost.

Mark was deeply influenced by these events, so he took his place among the large group of apostles and set out to preach. Yet on several occasions, Mark refused to step up as a spiritual leader. One time, St. Paul rejected his assistance because Mark had left him during a previous mission. (See Acts 15:36-40.)

Mark believed in Jesus with all his heart, but because he wasn’t part of the group that traveled with Jesus during his three years of ministry, he didn’t have the experiences or know the story well enough to share it.

What Mark needed was a teacher/parent-figure/guide. So he traveled to Rome and found all this in St. Peter.

Peter accepted Mark and treated him as if he were his own son (See 1 Peter 5:13). He shared his experiences during Jesus’s ministry and taught Mark how to preach. When Peter believed Mark was ready to spread the Word, he deemed him a priest and sent him off.

At some point, Mark returned to Paul who later referred to him as a “fellow worker, useful in my ministry” (See Philemon 1:23-34 and 2 Timothy 4:11 ). It was probably during his time with Paul that Mark wrote his gospel based on Peter’s memories. Parts can be read like a preacher’s manual:

He also said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth; yet when it is sown, it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.” – Mark 4:30-32

By sharing the words of Jesus Christ in his ministry and written words, St. Mark scattered seeds of faith that continue to grow Christians.

St. Barnabas, one of the Seventy Apostles, played a prominent role in growing the early Christian church through conversion. He worked mostly in Cyprus, a Greek island, and Antioch, a Greek-Roman city in modern-day Turkey. He is known especially for his works with St. Paul (Saul) and his encouragement of St. Mark. Tradition holds that he was the founder of the Cypriot Orthodox Church and was martyred in 61 AD in Salamis, Cyprus. His feast day is June 11.

There was a Levite, a native of Cyprus, Joseph, to whom the apostles gave the name Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”). He sold a field that belonged to him, then brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet. – Acts 4:36-37

Barnabas was educated and had a knack for encouraging people in the way of Jesus Christ. He saw something deeper in them that others couldn’t always see. For example, after Saul, the brutal prosecutor of Christians, experienced his conversion, Barnabas saw Saul as being sincere and valuable to their mission. He stood up for Saul among the apostles who feared him and his earlier deeds:

Barnabas took him, brought him to the apostles, and described for them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had spoken boldly in the name of Jesus. – Acts 9:27

Later, Barnabas was chosen by the apostles to assist in the conversion of Hellenists (Greek Jews) in Antioch:

When he came and saw the grace of God, he rejoiced, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast devotion for he was a good man full of the Holy Spirit and faith. And a great many people were brought to the Lord. Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch.

So it was that for an entire year they met with the church and taught a great many people, and it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called “Christians.” – Acts 11:23-26

In the years they worked and traveled together, Saul became Paul and the more outspoken of the two:

After some days, Paul said to Barnabas, “Come, let us return and visit the believers in every city where we proclaimed the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.” Barnabas wanted to take with them John called Mark. But Paul decided not to take with them one who had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not accompanied them in the work. The disagreement became so sharp that they parted company: Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus. – Acts 15:36-40

Barnabas accepted Mark and, no doubt, encouraged him in his mission. Mark then traveled to Rome to study with Peter where he grew in knowledge and confidence. Later, Mark returned to Paul who soon referred to him as someone valuable in his work.

St. Peter and St. Paul, Apostles, were martyred in Rome in 64 A.D. The Episcopal Church celebrates their sacrifice with a feast day on June 29. They are remembered as great teachers and fathers of the Christian Church.

Jesus called Simon, whose name he changed to Peter, to follow him, thereby setting the stage for Peter to learn as much about himself as he did about God. Among the many things Peter learned is that fear can make people do things they’ll later regret. How bitterly he wept when he realized that he had indeed, just as Jesus predicted, denied knowing him three times. (See Luke 22:54-62.)

Later, after the Risen Jesus appeared on the shoreline and shared breakfast with several apostles, he questioned Peter. (See John 21:15-19.) John’s Gospel doesn’t describe how Peter felt when he understood that Jesus held him accountable for his betrayal and allowed him to make amends, but we can imagine. With each declaration of Peter’s love, Jesus gave him an assignment and then indicated that Peter would later die for him. This incident cleansed Peter’s heart and fortified him for his future works.

St. Paul, earlier known as Saul, was a well-educated Roman citizen from a strict Jewish sect. He approved of and witnessed the stoning death of St. Stephen, the first Martyr of the Christian Church. (See Acts 7:54-8:3.)  He became a brutal persecutor of what he believed to be a band of heretics.

We don’t know why Saul was so brutal. Perhaps, he himself didn’t know why. As Saul walked along the road to Damascus, Jesus called down from Heaven in a flash of blinding light and asked him this same question:

“Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

He asked, “Who are you, Lord?”

The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But get up and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” – Acts 9:4-6

Saul endured three days without eyesight, food, or drink in a house where he was watched over. Then a disciple arrived:

He laid his hands on Saul and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on your way here, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and his sight was restored. Then he got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength. -Acts 9:17-19

Saul/Paul set out to preach to the same Christians who scattered away from his prior persecution, convert, and establish new Christian churches throughout the land. The story of Paul’s works in Acts, as well as in his own writings, especially Galatians, has served as a sort of Christian code based on the teachings of Jesus Christ.

I’m fascinated by the way Jesus handled the sins of these two men. He forgave, through accountability, the one who acted in fear but with a pure heart. He healed with clear sight the one with the misguided understanding of his own purpose. The forgiveness of Peter gives us hope that in confession we are forgiven, and the conversion of Paul gives us hope that prayer and communication can open the eyes of those who have lost their way in the dark.

Peter and Paul worked together along with other apostles. Paul remained a stickler to the Christian code of behavior. For example, he believed that Jesus taught that the apostles should eat with the Gentiles whom they were converting, and not follow strict Jewish laws about ritual cleanliness. Even though Peter had a vision showing him this same teaching, (Acts 10), he and Barnabas were rather easily swayed to follow the custom of the community in which they were staying. Paul lectured them and wrote a great rant about the incident in Galatians 2:13-21.

Peter then left for Rome, where he’s remembered as the first pope, and Paul prepared to travel with Barnabas to visit all the Christian communities they had established together. But when Barnabas said he wanted to take Mark with them, Paul had had enough and refused to allow someone who had earlier abandoned their mission to now join them. So they broke up and set out on different journeys.

And yet. Barnabas, Peter, and Paul all influenced the young apostle, Mark. First Barnabas encouraged him along his journey, next Peter taught him everything he knew about Jesus’s three-year ministry, and then Paul accepted Mark back into his circle, praised his work and gave him the space to write his Gospel based on Peter’s teachings. Despite their differences, Barnabas, Peter, and Paul were able to focus on the important work of growing Christians.

 

Throw St. Stephen into this whole interconnective web, what with his strong words, angelic characteristics, behavior as the first martyr for Christ, influence of the early Christians AND Saul/St. Paul, and wow. I mean, just wow.

The source material for most of what I wrote above comes from Acts, written by St. Luke, about whom I’m trying to write a biography. I’m having difficultly because Blessed Mother Mary persists in encouraging me to write a book called Connections that’s half lives of the saints and half spiritual journey memoir. She’s telling me now that it’s always been the same book everywhere on the timeline, even way back in Lent 2012, when I prayed for her intercession in helping me decide if I should study saints for years, or if I should write a cookbook, and miracle of miracles, she answered me — write a blog called Saints and Recipes.

Today, I understand truly that Saints and Recipes was never my end result — It’s my journey.

 

In honor of our connection to each other, let’s celebrate with a little taste of ancient Rome:

Fig and Goat Cheese Crostini

1 loaf crusty Italian bread

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

½ cup goat cheese

1/4 cup fig jam

1 pint fresh figs, sliced

Option: Since fresh figs are seasonal, apple slices would make a great swap because early Romans loved apples and propagated them throughout their empire.

Slice bread, brush with olive oil, and toast.

Spread toasted slices with cheese.

Carefully spread jam on top of the cheese.

Slice figs into quarters.

Place a slice of fig on top of each Crostini and serve as a snack or appetizer.

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