If you haven’t read the Acts of the Apostles, do it right now. I’m serious. Put down whatever you’re doing and read the entire books of Acts. It’s one of the most important books of the Bible because it chronicles the development of the early Church. Also, it tells the story of St. Paul who is seriously the most B.A. man who ever lived.
My enthusiasm for Acts has been reawakened because it is currently being read at daily mass. This means there has been epic readings for pretty much all of Easter. Today’s first reading was especially powerful. We hear about St. Paul leaving his followers to go off to Jerusalem, where he will eventually die. He doesn’t know exactly what will happen there, but he knows that he won’t leave alive. The Holy Spirit has given him some hints about the torture and death he will experience, yet he headed to Jerusalem anyway.
At Miletus, Paul spoke to the presbyters of the Church of Ephesus:
“Keep watch over yourselves and over the whole flock
of which the Holy Spirit has appointed you overseers,
in which you tend the Church of God
that he acquired with his own Blood.
I know that after my departure savage wolves will come among you,
and they will not spare the flock.
And from your own group, men will come forward perverting the truth
to draw the disciples away after them.
So be vigilant and remember that for three years, night and day,
I unceasingly admonished each of you with tears.
And now I commend you to God
and to that gracious word of his that can build you up
and give you the inheritance among all who are consecrated.
I have never wanted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing.
You know well that these very hands
have served my needs and my companions.
In every way I have shown you that by hard work of that sort
we must help the weak,
and keep in mind the words of the Lord Jesus who himself said,
‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.'”
When he had finished speaking
he knelt down and prayed with them all.
They were all weeping loudly
as they threw their arms around Paul and kissed him,
for they were deeply distressed that he had said
that they would never see his face again.
Then they escorted him to the ship.
The bravery of Paul, his servant leadership, the obvious love between the community members; I can’t help wonder if we’ve lost some essential traits of the early Church. Every time I hear about the doings of the early Church or the Saints, I wonder, why aren’t we like that anymore? What is it that gives the Acts of the Apostles its “wow factor”? How many of us would walk straight into martyrdom if we had prior knowledge of it? Why aren’t we out on the streets proclaiming the gospel? Maybe it’s because times are different. Maybe the internet has become our streets. Or maybe we’re cowards.
I’ve written about this before, I don’t think it can be said enough: do not become complacent! It is easy to compromise religious zeal in a world of political correctness and relativism, where we are afraid of offending anyone by asserting our beliefs as absolute truth. In today’s gospel, from John, Jesus says: “I gave them your word, and the world hated them, because they do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world.” The message of Christianity is often unpopular, but we have an obligation to spread the truth. Later in the same reading, Jesus prays, “Consecrate them in the truth. Your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world. And I consecrate myself for them, so that they also may be consecrated in truth.”
The words of St. Paul are still relevant: there are wolves among us and we must remain constantly vigilant.
Bad Catholic, a snarky blog I love to follow, has a great post on going hard as a Christian.