May 6, 2023 // Perspective
Like the Apostles, We Must Spread the Word of God
Fifth Sunday of Easter
Once again in this season, the Acts of the Apostles provides the first reading. The early chapters of Acts graphically display the lives of the early Christians. Obvious in this glimpse into history is the primary place of the Apostles, and the superior position among them of Peter, in the infant Church.
The Apostles were acknowledged because the Christians recognized the Apostles’ special relationship with, and calling from, the Lord. Indeed, reverence for the Apostles was so deep that the people placed their possessions at the Apostles’ feet, allowing the Apostles to control even the material assets of the community.
In Acts, this community was situated in Jerusalem. Although the very heart of Jewish life, Jerusalem was not Corinth. It was not Antioch. It most certainly was not Rome. In the total scheme of things, it was not a great city.
Caesarea, a seaport on the Mediterranean Sea, was more important. In Caesarea, the Roman governor resided. The Roman occupation had its headquarters there. Its port provided the way to Rome.
Not surprisingly, Acts also speaks of events in the vicinity of Caesarea. (The ruins of Caesarea now are in the suburbs of modern Tel Aviv. It is interesting, incidentally, that the only relic of the administration of Pontius Pilate as governor, aside from mention in the Gospels, is a stone carved with his name, found at the site of ancient Caesarea.)
Very clear in Acts is the way that the first Christians lived. Care of the needy, and of poor widows, was their priority. The Apostles directed such care. The Apostles also taught the Gospel, with Peter always as their spokesman.
To assist in providing care, and to proclaim the Gospel, the Apostles chose seven holy men to be deacons. Calling deacons was not just an exercise of organization but also of the Apostles’ authority to act in the Lord’s name.
First Peter provides the second reading, proclaiming Jesus as essential in life. The reading urges Christians to be true uncompromisingly to Jesus.
St. John’s Gospel supplies the last reading. Not a Resurrection Narrative, it recalls the Lord’s discourse with the Apostles, telling them what to expect in the future. Looking ahead, frank about the obstacles awaiting, Jesus prepared them for their future duties.
As we come along, reassuringly, the readings say that Christ will be with us always, “the way, the truth, and the life”, the Almighty, the merciful Son of God.
Weeks have passed since Easter. Throughout all of them, the Church joyfully has told us of the Resurrection. The Lord lives!
Before long, this Easter season will end. We will return to life in 2023, with its burdens and rewards. What will assist our discipleship in our time?
These post-Easter readings at Mass answer this question by putting before us the Church, as a visible, active institution. This weekend’s lesson from Acts reveals the endurance and the timelessness of the Church, through successors of the Apostles.
Christ ascended to heaven, but the Apostles continued the work of salvation by drawing others into their mission. They called and ordained deacons. Deacons serve us today.
Paul named Barnabas, Timothy, Titus, and others, to be bishops, to further his efforts. Succeeding Peter was the second bishop of Rome. Then came the third and the fourth and the fifth, now to Francis. Thus, it has been for 2,000 years.
Through successors of the Apostles, the Church still tells us that Jesus is with us as Savior and Guide. The Church still cares for the poor.
In the variety of modern religion, which Christian community truly reflects the gathering of the first Christians in Jerusalem? It uniquely is the Roman Catholic Church, precisely because the Church still relies upon the Apostles with Peter clearly as their head.
The best news. Delivered to your inbox.
Subscribe to our mailing list today.