Paul is in the synagogue in Antioch in today’s first reading. The synagogue officials ask if he has a word of exhortation for the people. In the Gospel from John 13, we hear Jesus saying, “Whoever receives the one I send receives me.”
I was intrigued by the invitation given to Paul in today’s reading from Acts. I looked up the word “exhortation.” Here’s what Webster has to say: Language intended to incite and encourage; advice; counsel; admonition. Hmm…if we’re talking about our spiritual lives, this sounds a bit like evangelization to me. Inciting. Encouraging. Advising. Counseling.
So often times, I’m afraid, our words are negative. We engage in gossip. We say unkind things about other people. We tear others down, thinking that it will make us look better in the eyes of the hearer. Guilty as charged? Yep, me, too. Let’s pledge to break out of that cycle. Let’s remind other people of their goodness, of their inherent beauty, of all the things that make them loveable. And if it’s hard to think of some of those things for some folks (I know that can be tough at times!), let’s just let them know that God loves them. I think you’ll be amazed at what a word of exhortation can do to brighten someone’s day.
Father, help us to stop the flow of negative things that come out of our mouths. Give us a word of exhortation today for someone who needs to hear it. Amen.