EASTER READINGS – ACTS OF THE APOSTLES & JOHN’S GOSPEL [2]

The Holy Spirit in the Acts of the Apostles

INTRO The Holy Spirit is our ‘life-blood’, the oxygen we breath as ‘missionary disciples’ of Jesus. The Holy Spirit makes present the Risen Jesus in our hearts; the Holy Spirit binds us together in unity and makes us ‘Church’ – the Body of the Risen Christ today. The Holy Spirit is God’s Wisdom who guides, God’s Love that empowers us. God’s Truth that enlightens us. The Holy ‘witnesses’ to the Father and Jesus deep in our hearts, the Holy Spirit is the dialogue of prayer and love in the Trinity which cries out in prayer within us.

[1] The Acts of the Apostles – a constant Pentecost! Sometimes described as the Gospel of the Holy Spirit, the Acts moves from one movement of the Spirit to another, encouraging, enlightening, empowering, forming, directing, emboldening, healing, in and through the Early Church.  As such the Acts is the charter and model of the Church in every age, every culture and every place! Are we open to this Holy Spirit, do we thirst for this Spirit, do we rely on and seek the promptings and guidance of this Spirit? It has been said that should God withdraw the Holy Spirit from the Church, most of our activities would continue without much change!! Now let us look at these Pentecosts in the Acts.

[2] The Foundation Pentecostal Event (Acts 2: 1-41, esp 1-18) Luke’s Gospel open with the Holy Spirit overshadowing Zechariah in the Temple in Jerusalem; the Acts begins with the Holy Spirit poured out in an explosion of Divine energy and praise, a ferment of prayer and proclamation in Jerusalem – but not the Temple, but the Upper Room and the Market place. Pentecost – a Jewish Feast – a great Pilgrimage Feast (so Jerusalem crowded with people from all over the Jewish diaspora), remembering the first harvest of the People in the Promised land and giving thanks for the gift of the Covenant whereby God chose them as His People and they chose Him as their God (it took place 7 weeks – 50 days – after tehir Liberation from Egypt on Passover Night). It is also the ‘first day of the week’ – a new Creation is beginning and the apostolic community is called to the work of the Kingdom, witnessing to the Good News. The signs: Wind, Fire, Tongues and Universal Proclamation. Peter in the market place quotes Joel 3: 1-5 – everyone will receive the Spirit, dreaming dreams and seeing visions – free and slaves alike filled! The final Age has begun and all is now moving towards the Transformation of all Creation in Divine Glory (the ‘Final Coming’ or ‘Eschaton’). The Great Mission has begun – empowered by the Spirit. The diverse languages now united in a single ‘language of Faith – not tongues, but the language of shared faith and love – a New Covenant. The Universal Church is gathered – has been born (Acts 2: 42-47 & Acts 4: 32-34).

[3] The Spirit comes to strengthen in time of Persecution (Acts 4: 1-31)   Peter and John having tasted a little of conflict and persecution because of healing the lame man at the Beautiful Gate of the Temple (Acts 3: 1-10), are freed and the community pray for more of the same! Healing and Proclamation of the Good News in the name of Jesus – persecution intensifies (Acts 5: 17-42)

[4] The appointment of the Seven Greek Jewish deacons (Acts 6: 1-6) – a problem in welcoming a new culture and Spirit guides to setting up an ‘apostolic leadership’ in another culture. These deacons do the same as the Apostles – preach and heal. The martyrdom of Stephen (Acts 7: 55-8: 1) triggering a more vicious persecution and as the disciples flee Jerusalem – the carry to Good News with them!

[5] Deacon Philip evangelises the Samaritans – their own Pentecost (Acts 8: 4-8 & 14-18); also Philip evangelises the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8: 26-40): ‘Rejoicing’ a sign of the Spirit’s outpouring

[6] Saul’s Pentecost on the Damascus Road (Acts 9: 3-19). Out of death (Stephen’s and Saul’ death-bearing), comes Life (Paul reborn and the Gentile Church)

[7] Peter evangelises the Roman Centurion (Acts 10: 1-48, esp 44-48). Peter is the first to evangelise the Gentiles, breaking new ground pushed by the Spirit, and Paul builds on it.

[8] Saul and Barnabas set aside by the Spirit for Mission (Acts 13: 1-3) – originally to the Jewish Diaspora but the Gentiles embraced the Faith! Opposition used by the Spirit to evangelise the Gentiles.

[9] The Spirit guides at Council of Jerusalem (esp Acts 15: 28). Key moment – crisis of division overcome by Dialogue in the Spirit – sect or Universal Sacrament of Salvation?

[10] Paul at Ephesus and the Pentecost event among that community (Acts 19: 1-7)  – the Spirit coming down and they speak in Tongues! Paul can tell the difference, identifies what (or Who) is missing

[11] The Spirit takes Paul to witness in Rome (Acts 28: 23-31)

AFTERWORD At the beginnings of Acts (Acts 1: 8) Jesus sends the community to proclaim the Good News and be witnesses first ‘in Jerusalem, then Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth’. The Acts concludes with Paul proclaiming the Gospel in Rome – the centre of the world at that time. Acts traces the symbolic fulfilment of the Ascension Mission. 

What the Spirit does – converts, forms community, strengthens for persecution, sends and guides the Mission, witnesses through healing (the same healings in ministry of Peter and Paul [and others] as in the the ministry of Jesus), pushes them to break with their ‘traditions and taboos’ as the community gradually becomes ‘universal’. What is the Spirit doing today in your parish community, in the global Church? Are we listening to the Spirit speak to Church in our own age?

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