April 15, 2018

Today, the Third Sunday of Easter, we continue to unpack the new life given to us in the death and resurrection of Jesus.

Over these next several weeks, through the Solemnity of Pentecost, our first reading on Sundays and at weekday Masses, will be taken from the Acts of the Apostles. This is St. Luke’s second volume, after his Gospel. Luke writes at the beginning of Acts that, in his first book (the Gospel) he “dealt with all that Jesus did and taught until the day he was taken up…” (Acts 1:1-2). We will hear this introduction to the Acts of the Apostles on the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord (May 13).

In this second volume, Luke describes the continuing work of Jesus through the community of the Church empowered by the Holy Spirit. Last week we heard the unity of the community described. Luke says they were “of one heart and mind,” illustrated by the fact that “no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own…and there was no needy person among them.” This is a picture of the ideal Christian community - united in mind and heart and caring for those in need.

In today’s passage from the third chapter of Acts, Peter tells the story of Jesus in summary form, with a specific call to conversion to those who had rejected him. He assures them that such conversion will wipe away their sins.

Next week our passage from Acts is from the fourth chapter and Peter will continue his proclamation of Jesus who was crucified and now lives. He shows that, through the healing of a crippled man, Jesus’ power to heal continues in his community of believers.

On the Fifth Sunday of Easter, we are introduced to St. Paul, who plays such a central role in the Acts of the Apostles and in the spread of the Gospel. At first his appearance in Jerusalem causes fear because he was known as a persecutor of Christians. But, he has encountered the Risen Lord Jesus, and has undergone a conversion - a complete reversal of mind and heart. But not everyone is convinced, and the Greek-speaking Jewish Christians in the Jerusalem community (the Hellenists) try to kill him. This will not be the last time St. Paul’s life is threatened during his ministry to spread the Gospel.

On the Sixth Sunday of Easter we will hear of the revelation to Peter that “God shows no partiality” (Acts 10:34). This refers to how God had revealed to him that Gentiles (non-Jews) could also be given the gift of the Holy Spirit. For us, two thousand years later, this doesn’t sound like a big deal. But, it was a huge shift in the early Church. Remember, all of Jesus disciples were Jews. Jesus himself was a Jew. The early Christians were all Jews. But now, the two great leaders in the early Church, Peter and Paul, will see the power of the Spirit working among non-Jews who accept that Jesus is the Messiah.

It is that power of the Holy Spirit that enlivens the early Church. It is the gift of the Spirit, described in the second chapter of Acts, that gives birth to the Church, and that we will celebrate to conclude the Easter Season on May 20th, the Solemnity of Pentecost.

It is that same Spirit that has been given to you and me in the waters of Baptism. During these days of the Easter Season, may we be open to the Spirit of the Risen Jesus. May His Spirit continue to empower our community of faith to be of one heart and one mind, listening to Him and tending to the needs of those among us.

God Bless,
Fr. Gary Lazzeroni