28 April 2020

Thank you to Br. Richard Green for sharing this reflection with us. Brother Richard is a Carmelite friar, currently living in the CISA community, in Rome.

Since Easter, the readings that the Church has given us for Mass have included a first reading from the book of the Acts of the Apostles. As you know, this was written by the same person as Luke's Gospel, and it continues the Gospel story onwards. It tells us about how the apostles reacted after Jesus' death and resurrection. At first, they are based in Jerusalem. But then Luke has to tell us about the persecution that they suffered in Jerusalem, and how that meant that some of Jesus' followers had to leave the city. This is how the first Christian communities became established outside of Jerusalem (and in fact Luke tells us about how they first became called Christians). 

Luke then tells us about St Paul, and how he became a follower of Jesus, and of how the first non-Jewish people became converted to Christianity. We hear about Paul's journeys around the Mediterranean, and how in each place he stopped, he left a community of people behind him who worshipped God, followed Jesus and knew the love of the Holy Spirit. 

In each of these different places there was a Christian community formed, made up of people from all walks of life, and all ages. All of these communities were different to each other, and each of them had to find a way of following Jesus. Luke tells us quite a lot about how they lived at Jerusalem, and at Antioch, but less about some of the other places. We can fill in some of the gaps from reading Paul's letters to the Christian communities in different cities. 

When we read Acts, we see the strength of the commitment that people had to following Jesus. They were praying frequently and were dedicated to caring for one another, making sure that no-one was in need. Some of them (especially Paul) were willing to face great difficulties in order to spread the good news about Jesus' death and his resurrection. 

For a few weeks after Easter every year, we read this history of how the Apostles reacted to the Resurrection. Every year I find myself looking at what they thought was important, and looking at my own life as well. The situation I live in is very different to theirs, but I can still try to live my relationships with other people with the same values of prayer, concern and love that the Apostles showed. 

I'll leave you with a very short passage from early on in the Acts of the Apostles, where Luke describes the community of Jesus' followers in Jerusalem. Of course, there were still problems, they still got things wrong, but if we can see what they thought was important, we can react to the circumstances we find ourselves in faithfully. 

Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles.  All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need.  Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved. (Acts 2:43-47, NRSV)