Easter People on Mission: Week 1
Acts of the Apostles Scripture Challenge
Acts of the Apostles begins by recounting the events between Christ’s resurrection and ascension into heaven and reiterating the promise of the coming of the Holy Spirit. Just as Jesus’ own baptism inaugurates his public ministry, so too the apostles’ baptism in the Holy Spirit launches their ministry. The Spirit fills 120 disciples gathered in an upper room in Jerusalem and miraculously enables them to speak many languages from all over the world. Peter delivers an impassioned sermon proclaiming Christ as Messiah and Lord to the throngs of people gathered, prompting 3,000 people to repent and receive baptism. Those who believe and are baptized form a community centered on the teaching of the apostles and a communal life that is anchored in prayer and the breaking of the bread (Eucharist).
Filled with the Holy Spirit, Peter dramatically heals a lame beggar, which produces a large audience and creates another opportunity to proclaim Christ. This prompts the conversion of another 5000 people. While the healing of the lame beggar and preaching of Peter yields many new believers, it also prompts resistance from the Jewish leaders, questioning the authority by which the apostles are preaching and performing these works. Despite these threats, the apostles are compelled to continue to witness in the power of the Spirit. This section concludes with a prayer from the apostolic community for the Lord to enable them to continue to preach with boldness and to perform signs and wonders in the name of Jesus. The community life of the early Church is characterized by selfless concern for all, an even distribution of goods, and complete trust in the oversight of the apostles.
What are some things we can learn from these passages?
Jesus is alive! He is not merely a “historical Jesus” who lived and died in the first century. Jesus, in his resurrected state, presented himself as alive to the apostles and he is still alive today. Sometimes this reality escapes us because we cannot tangibly see Christ the way we can see other living things. But the truth is, our redeemer lives, and this means that we can have a relationship with him, that he is always with us, and he hears our prayers.
This passage also helps us see that the Holy Spirit is an absolute prerequisite for evangelization to be fruitful. This is demonstrated by the behavior of the apostles before and after Pentecost. Before the coming of the Spirit, they lacked the courage to speak and had no clear way forward (even though they spent 3 years with Jesus). After the coming of the Spirit, they were men transformed, boldly proclaiming the Good News, and performing signs and wonders as the Spirit prompted them. This is a great lesson for us. The same Spirit that was poured out on the disciples in the Upper Room has been poured into our hearts through the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation. If we want to bring others to Christ, we need to be docile to the Holy Spirit and let him lead us in our interactions with others. God gives us supernatural power for a supernatural mission, whether it is in our homes, places of work, neighborhoods, or parishes.
Jesus’s resurrection really did change everything. It changed the cross from a tragedy into a triumph, opening to us the possibility of eternal life in heaven with God. This was the most powerful divine event in the history of creation, and it ushered in a new age of the Holy Spirit’s activity and power in saving and transforming lives. Christ’s resurrection changes people from being spiritually dead to alive in God. It changes guilt to forgiveness and freedom and anxiety into hope.
Although many of us have already received the Holy Spirit in Baptism and Confirmation, we are always in need of a fresh outpouring of the Spirit for the mission God has entrusted to us. This week with deep faith and an open heart, ask God for a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon you and your family.