Adrift But Not Lost

Acts of the Apostles chapter 27 recounts the naval voyage of St. Paul to Rome. Paul was a prisoner in Jerusalem and, being a Roman citizen, was transferred to the capital for trial. During the voyage his ship encountered a severe storm. Badly damaged and having drifted out to sea, way off course, the crew was despondent. The captain and sailors had lost hope and were refusing to eat. All was lost. Then Paul, the least of the apostles, took charge. Standing up in chains, he exhorted the men. “I urge you, therefore, to take some food; it will help you survive. Not a hair of the head of anyone of you will be lost” (Acts 27: 34-35).

Acts 27:36 continues the narrative: “When he said this, he took bread, gave thanks to God in front of them all, broke it, and began to eat. They were all encouraged.”

Sure enough, the crew survived. The next day the ship discovered land and the strengthened men begrudgingly led their prisoner to Rome, where he would be tried and eventually executed.

It's a great story that shows not just the strength and sanctity of St. Paul, but also the power of the Eucharist. Paul celebrated Mass on that adrift ship. It was not bread he fed them, but the Body of Christ. The Blessed Sacrament gave the crew both physical and mental strength. That is what communion, food for the journey as it is sometimes called, does for us. Receiving Jesus into our bodies gives us an acute awareness that God is with us and guiding us. There is never cause to lose hope, for God will never let us down. Paul was not only an early Navy chaplain, but also an early demonstrator of the power of Corpus Christi.

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