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Exclusively published to the Touchstone website each week, these Daily Reflections are brief commentaries on the lectionary readings contained in the St. James Daily Devotional Guide. The reflections are penned by Patrick Henry Reardon, editor of the Daily Devotional Guide and a senior editor of Touchstone. Father Reardon provides here a very brief directional clue for one of the texts each day. Long-time readers of the Daily Devotional Guide will find these reflections an additional help to their reading of Holy Scripture which they can print and keep with their Guide.

The Daily Reflections will be updated weekly.


Sunday, August 11

Acts 21:15-25: The day after his arrival in Jerusalem,
Paul goes to pay his respects to James, the Lord's "brother," who appears to
be the chief pastor of the church in that city and the leader of its
presbyters. This impression is consonant with the early preserved lists of
the bishops of the churches, where James is invariably listed as Jerusalem's
first bishop (along with Mark as Alexandria's, Evodius as Antioch's, Linus
as Rome's, and so on). Unlike the earlier gathering at Jerusalem in Acts 15,
this meeting does not mention the "apostles." These latter have by now all
left Jerusalem and have gone to preach the Gospel in other lands, some of
which have preserved memories of earlier apostolic evangelization. There is
evidence that the apostle Thomas preached in India, for example, Philip in
Phrygia,  Matthew in Syria and Ethiopia, and Andrew in Thrace. The apostle
Peter had moved westward by this time, but the absence of his name from
Paul's letter to the Romans indicates that he had not yet reached the
Empire's capital, where he would, along with Paul, suffer martyrdom.
Meanwhile, at Jerusalem Paul's report greatly heartens James and the
presbyters (verses 19-20), but they express concern about certain
misrepresentations of Paul being circulated among the Jewish Christians.
Because of Paul's frequent encounters with hostile Jews in various cities,
he can hardly be surprised by such reports, and James is eager to put them
to rest. Paul, desiring to be all things to all men (1 Corinthians 9:19-23;
Romans 7:12), acquiesces in James's suggestion for how to go about
neutralizing the rumors current among the "tens of thousands" (myriades -
verse 20) of Jewish Christians. This suggestion involves the rather
elaborate public fulfillment of a Nazirite vow (verses 23-24; Numbers

Monday, August 12

Acts 21:26-34: On the next day Paul begins daily worship
in the temple as the sponsor of the four men under vow, to provide the
offering required on such occasions (verse 26). A week later he is
recognized in the temple by some of the same Asian Jews with whom he has
already had so many painful experiences (verse 27; 18:19; 20:19). It is
important to observe that the objections to Paul at Jerusalem do not come
from the Jewish Christians living there, but from the Diaspora Jews, whose
presence in Jerusalem is occasioned by the feast of Pentecost (20:6,16), a
normal time for pilgrimage to the temple. On the streets of the city they
had already recognized Trophimus, a Christian from Asia, who accompanied
Paul to Jerusalem for the purpose of transporting the collection of money
for the poor (20:4; cf. also 2 Timothy 4:20). The Jews from Ephesus accuse
Paul of introducing this Gentile into the temple beyond the Court of the
Gentiles. The gravity of their accusation is indicated in the inscription,
written in both Greek and Latin, that separated that court from the Court of
Women (Josephus, Jewish War 5.5.2; Antiquities 15.11.5 [417]; cf. also
Ephesians 2:14). That inscription, discovered by C. S. Clermont-Ganneau in
1871, says: "No foreigner [non-Jew] is to enter within the balustrade and
the embankment that surrounds the sanctuary. If anyone is apprehended in the
act, let him know that he must hold himself to blame for the penalty of
death that will follow." After ejecting Paul from the temple, his accusers
close the gates to prevent his seeking refuge therein (verse 30). Because
such riots in the temple are by no means rare, particularly  during
pilgrimages, a Roman guard of a thousand men is stationed in the nearby
Fortress Antonia, and news of the disturbance reaches the commander of this
unit, Claudius Lysias (23:26), who promptly takes Paul into custody to
prevent his being murdered. It was at this very place that an earlier crowd
of Jews had insisted to Pilate, "Take Him away!" [Aire touton in Luke 23:18]
with respect to Jesus, the same insistence now being made with respect to
Paul [Aire auton in Acts 21:36].

Tuesday, August 13

Acts 21:35-22:5: To apprehend Paul and put a stop to the
riot, the soldiers had descended a long flight of stairs that leads up to
the entrance of the Fortress Antonia. Now practically carrying their
prisoner , they ascend those stairs, which will effectively give Paul an
elevation from which to address the crowd. Perhaps the commander of the
fortress had received a bulletin to be on the lookout for a famous Jewish
revolutionary from Egypt (described in considerable detail by Josephus,
incidentally). In any case, he mistakes his new prisoner for that individual
and is surprised when Paul speaks to him in Greek. Thus taken by surprise,
he grants Paul's request to address the mob. Speaking to them in Aramaic,
Paul is deferential in tone ("Men, brothers and fathers") and patient in the
development of his theme, which consists essentially in another narrative of
his conversion. The story is told as a form of personal apologetics
(apologia in verse 1). Paul insists, "I am a Jew" (verse 2). He tells of his
education in Jerusalem under the tutelage of Rabbi Gamaliel, his adherence
to the strictness (akribeia ) of the Torah, his zeal (literally "God's
zealot" - Theou zelotes), which zeal he compares with their own (verse 3;
Galatians 1:14; Philippians 3:6). Paul too once opposed the new "way"
(hodos), he tells them, as zealously as they are doing today. All this,
however, changed dramatically, as he rode to Damascus.

Wednesday, August 14

Acts 22:6-21: Essentially identical with the story of
Paul's conversion in Acts 9, the present account does provide some details
not mentioned in that earlier version. We now learn, for instance, that
Paul's conversion took place at the noon hour (verse 6), which we know was a
prescribed time of prayer for Jews. Thus, we ascertain that Paul's
conversion took place while was stopped along the road, turned facing
Jerusalem (cf. 1 Kings 8:48; Daniel 6:10), and reciting the Tefillah, or
Eighteen Benedictions. He was suddenly surrounded by an overwhelming light,
flung to the ground, and dramatically addressed by name by the accusing
Lord. By noting the specific hour of Paul's experience, this version of the
story relates it to the ecstatic vision of the apostle Peter, who was also
praying at noon, in Acts 10. In each case the praying apostle is called by
name (10:13; 11:7; 22:7) and answers the "Lord" (Kyrie in 10:14; 11:8; 22:8)
in a brief dialogue. Each man is given a command (10:13; 11:7; 22:10). In
each case the context is related to the calling of the Gentiles. In the
instance of Peter, the experience leads directly to the baptism of Cornelius
and his companions (11:9-14). In the present instance, this point is made by
describing a second experience of Paul, this one in the temple at Jerusalem
after his return to that city three years later (cf. Galatians 1:18). This
second experience is called an ecstasy (en ekstasei in 22:17), the same word
earlier used to describe Peter?s experience (10:10; 11:5). This experience
of Paul, which also occurs in the context of prayer (22:17), takes place in
the temple. This latter detail seems most significant within the general
framework of Luke's symbolic topography. His Gospel narrative both begins
and ends in the temple (Luke 1:9; 24:53), and now it is in the temple, the
very center of the Jewish faith and hope, that God commissions the Apostle
to the Gentiles (Romans 11:13) to take the Gospel to the Gentiles (Acts
22:21; 9:15). This mention of the Gentiles, the goyim, to the crowd of
already angry Jews is what brings Paul's brief speech to a swift conclusion.

Thursday, August 15

Psalm 105 (Greek and Latin 104): This is the first of
three consecutive psalms structured on detailed historical narratives. While
their varying constructions reveal no original relationship that originally
joined them, the first two psalms are arranged in the Psalter in such a way
as to suggest an overlapping sequence. Thus, Psalm 105 begins with Abraham
and ends with the Sinai covenant, while Psalm 106 begins with the Exodus and
ends with the period after the Conquest. Even the most casual reader will
also note the similarities of Psalm 105 with Psalm 78 with respect to
historical outline. These two psalms, 78 and 105, differ from one another
considerably in inspiration, however. Psalm 78 especially emphasizes the
repeated infidelities of the people, whereas Psalm 105 concentrates entirely
on praising God for His providential directing of Israel's history.
Following the primitive schema preserved in Deuteronomy 26:1-9, the
narrative of Psalm 105 breaks into three parts: the Patriarchs, the sojourn
in Egypt, and the Exodus, all of them joined by the themes of God's fidelity
to His covenant promises and His active providence in fulfilling them. While
the whole psalm deals with God's providence on behalf of all the people, the
second section, dealing with the sojourn in Egypt, also includes what we may
think of as "individual" providence. What the Bible portrays as God's care
for the history of the whole people of Israel is shown also to be at work in
the life and destiny of a single man. It is the awesome story of Joseph and
God's care for him through many trials.

Friday, August 16

Acts 22:22-29: It is clear that Paul's life is in danger
(22:22; 25:24). Since he had been speaking to the crowd in Aramaic, Paul's
message was not understood by the commander of the fortress, so the latter
is bewildered and troubled by the crowd's violent reaction (verse 23). His
own reaction is understandable. In due course he will be obliged to render
an account of this recent disturbance to the Roman procurator of the region
at Caesarea, but up to this point he has no idea just what has transpired.
Since he can make no intelligible sense of the yelling and actions of the
crowd (21:34), he orders Paul to be tortured by beatings, in hope of
obtaining some solid information on the matter (verse 24). Paul, however,
will have none of it. When he was beaten earlier at Philippi by the
governmental officials in Acts 16, he had not mentioned his Roman
citizenship, the Lex Porcia, until after that event. On the present
occasion, however, he speaks up ahead of time, indicating the high status
that precludes his being tortured. Indeed, the commander has already gone
too far by having Paul handcuffed without legal warrant (verse 29). Thus,
the matter of Paul's Roman citizenship is introduced into the narrative for
the second time. In due course it will be that special legal status that
permits Paul's recourse to a court in the capital city. Paul's Roman
citizenship, then, is an important component in the dynamism of the whole
account in this book, which narrates the movement of the Gospel from
Jerusalem to Rome.

Saturday, August 17

Acts 22:30‹23:11: Luke does not tell us if Claudius
Lysias interrogated Paul further, but it is reasonable to think that he did.
He would not have learned from Paul, however, any solid information that
would clarify the legal situation. The fortress commander thus finds himself
in a dilemma. He has arrested a prisoner on the basis of no identifiable
offense. This is all quite embarrassing. How would he ever explain this
serious irregularity to the authorities at Caesarea when official inquiries
were made? If, on the other hand, he were simply to release Paul, he may be
setting free a criminal, possibly a revolutionary and subversive. Caught in
this conflict, Lysias determines to consult the Sanhedrin, Judaism's highest
governing spiritual authority. Thus, Paul must now defend himself before the
Sanhedrin, and he does this masterfully. Well aware of the major theological
division of that body into Sadducees and Pharisees (verse 6), Paul goes to
some lengths to identify himself with the latter party. Why, after all, is
he being held as a prisoner? Is it not because of his affirmation of the
resurrection from the dead? And is not the coming resurrection from the dead
one of the major and characteristic features of Pharisaic belief? By this
insistence, therefore, Paul succeeds in dividing his opponents (verses
7-10), this time not among a rioting mob but within the highest and most
dignified religious body in Judaism. Lysias, frustrated that he has no more
reliable information than he had before, has Paul locked up again. That
night, when the Lord speaks to strengthen His apostle, He sets in parallel
Paul's preaching in Jerusalem with his coming preaching in Rome. Paul's
journey to Rome has been decreed by God (dei, "it is necessary," in verse
11), no matter what strange human circumstances may serve to bring it about.



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