There has been a lot of talk about visions these past few days.
Pope Francis paid a visit to Fatima over the weekend to visit the site where Mary appeared to three young children 100 years ago, giving them a vision of hell, secret predictions for the future and a command to pray the Rosary for the conversion of souls.
The Pope was there to officially declare two of those children, Francisco and Jacinta, as saints.
Meanwhile, in New York City, a story over the weekend told of a witness to a lesser known apparition in Ireland – the 1879 appearance of Mary, St. Joseph and St. John the Evangelist on the side of a church to a group of 15 people from the village of Knock.
You should take the time to read it.
These stories of apparition – and especially the reaction of those granted the visions – were on my mind as I read today’s first reading from the Acts of the Apostles.
Paul and Barnabas are on their journey to spread the Gospel, the good news of Jesus, when they happened upon the ancient Greek city of Lystra, a community of Gentiles steeped in the worship and praise of Greek gods.
When Paul calls for a crippled man who is healed of his condition, the community believes they have seen a vision from their gods. They began to call them “Zeus” (the Greek god of the sky) and “Hermes” (the messenger of the gods).
Struck by this vision, the “priests of Zeus” began to prepare a ceremony to offer sacrifice to Paul and Barnabas. As we read, Paul stops them and attempts to teach them the truth about the true and living God.
Just imagine if Paul and Barnabas had reacted differently.
They could have accepted all the praise, the sacrifices and probably a lot of other things. They could have set up shop right there and used their new-found fame to do what they wanted, when they wanted.
Life of luxury, right?
But, for those whose hearts had been given over to Jesus, that kind of reaction was not – and never can be – a good way to react. Instead, they deflected the praise and urged their listeners to change their ways and open their hearts to the truth of our Lord.
How would you react?
It’s really not a stretch to ponder …
You may not try to convert cities by the thousands or groups by the hundreds. But you probably do “work on the hearts” of those you love … those you work with … those you care for.
When the time comes and God gives you the blessing to see a heart converted, I bet the first thing you hear is a huge “thank you” and lots of praise offered up by the individual whose life you have helped change.
How do you react?
This is an important question.
Do you accept the praise and the adoration and the gifts offered to you in thanksgiving? Or do you deflect all that?
Do you gently thank them for their kindness, but remind them that their heart was converted by God’s love and His Grace … while you were merely serving at His direction?
I think about the children of Fatima and how their lives changed forever after their vision of Our Lady.
And I think about that ordinary old man in New York City, who also witnessed something profound, himself, and never made a big splash about it.
We have a wonderful faith and a Catholic Church that is filled with uplifting stories of faith, miracles and conversions of heart.
We have plenty of which to be proud.
But our faith encourages us to remain humble.
If our good works on this earth bear fruit today, tomorrow or long after we are dead, it is by the mysterious working of the Holy Spirit that those good fruits will be shared at just the right time to just the right people.
We simply need to keep focused on the work at hand.