As I have mentioned several times in the past weeks, one of the purposes of the Acts of the Apostles is to record the rather phenomenal growth of the Christian community. The first reading from today’s liturgy certainly falls within that purpose. Three times within the space of these few verses, St. Luke mentions the growth of the community.
“The church throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria was at peace. It was being built up and walked in the fear of the Lord, and with the consolation of the Holy Spirit it grew in numbers” (Acts 9:31).
“And all the inhabitants of Lydda and Sharon saw him, and they turned to the Lord” (Acts 9:35).
“This became known all over Joppa, and many came to believe in the Lord” (Acts 9:42).
These verses from chapter nine also record the healing miracles which accompanied Peter as he made his way to Lydda, Sharon, and Joppa. In Lydda and Sharon, Peter healed a paralyzed man. In Joppa he raised Tabitha (Dorcas) from the dead. Once again, we can see that St. Luke takes great pains to write stories which parallel those of his Gospel.
If we read carefully, we can also see that St. Luke is very careful to state that the healings and the accompanying growth of the community are God’s doing. God is acting through the apostles. The growth of the community is not credited to the apostles. Rather it is God who is effecting the growth of the community; it is God who is healing through Peter.
This is a point on which we could spend some time today. In our culture and in our society, we tend to accentuate our own accomplishments as well as those of others. We admire men and women who reach certain goals or who break certain records. Just recently the Golden State Warriors set a record for the most wins in a single season. The media was made sure that we were aware of this fact and also took great pains to mention that this new record bested that of Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. To be sure, it is a commendable record.
However, when it comes to the Christian community and the activity of its members, it is important to remember that it is God who is responsible for its advancement. The only thing for which we can take credit is our willingness to let God work through us. The achievement itself is God’s doing. We are only effective when we set aside our own desires and allow ourselves to be God’s messengers; or, as St. Teresa of Avila put it, when we allow God to use our hands, our feet, and our tongues to spread the Good News of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. Just as Mary, our Blessed Mother, said as she heard the news of her impending motherhood, “Behold, the handmaiden of the Lord; be it done onto me according to your Word.”
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator