St. Paul Shipwrecked (detail) by Gustave Doré

“After we had escaped, we then learned that the island was called Malta. And the natives showed us unusual kindness, for they kindled a fire and welcomed us all, because it had begun to rain and was cold. Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and put them on the fire, when a viper came out because of the heat and fastened on his hand. When the natives saw the creature hanging from his hand, they said to one another, ‘No doubt this man is a murderer. Though he has escaped from the sea, justice has not allowed him to live.’ He, however, shook off the creature into the fire and suffered no harm.” (Acts 28:1-5).

Have you ever been told to stop complaining? I strongly disliked the SNL skit, the Whiners, back in the day—played by Joe Piscopo, Robin Duke. Their antics were just annoying and my friends generally agreed. Maybe that was because we saw something of ourselves in them. It’s true that everyone, even if only now and then, might find himself complaining about this or that. Or maybe not so rarely.

Whining is never productive. It is pointless complaining at best, and sinful and destructive at other times.

If there was ever someone other than Job of the Old Testament that one might forgive if he had ever whined, it would be St. Paul of the New Testament! In the above passage, Paul is accused of murder by strangers simply because he was bitten by a viper! Let’s set the context. Paul was under arrest and on his way to Rome since he had appealed to Caesar—sent by Festus and Aggrippa, neither of whom even thought he should be a prisoner. He had just survived a shipwreck, his fourth shipwreck! Preparing a fire because of a cold rain, he is bitten by a poisonous snake.

But he did not die, he did not even complain! The chief man of the island of Malta, Publius, had a very ill father. St. Paul, in spite of everything, visited and healed him… and then all the sick of the island.

Paul did not lose hope, he did not despair, and he certainly did not whine! Instead, he went about the work of the Lord, ministering to those the Lord placed in his path. A disciple of Jesus, surrenders in trust to the Lord and then gets on with what is important, loving God by love of neighbor, encouraging, consoling and ministering as a witness for the Gospel of Jesus Christ and His church.

May each of us follow Paul’s example.

Be at Peace! Christ is risen!

Deacon Bickerstaff is available to speak at your parish or event. Be sure to check out his Speaker Page to learn more. Into the Deep is a regular feature of the The Integrated Catholic Life™.

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