May 8, 2020

Fifth Sunday of Easter / Msgr. Owen F. Campion

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionThe Acts of the Apostles once more is the source of the first reading for Mass this weekend. The early chapters of Acts marvelously reveal to us the lives led by the early Christians. In this glimpse into events so long ago, the Apostles hold an obviously critical place. And, among them, St. Peter was at the center.

The Apostles led the early Church. The early Christians recognized their leadership and listened to them. Indeed, reverence for the Apostles was so deep that the people placed their possessions at the Apostles’ feet, allowing them to control even the material assets of the Church’s faithful.

Peter was the leader whom the Apostles and the people acknowledged.

In Acts, the early Church was situated in Jerusalem. Although the very heart of Jewish life and a city extraordinarily unique in meaning for Jews, Jerusalem was not Corinth or Antioch. It most certainly was not Rome. In the total scheme of things in Roman culture, it was not a very important city.

Actually, the Romans maintained as their capital for Palestine the city of Caesarea, a seaport on the Mediterranean Sea. (The ruins of this city now are in the suburbs of modern Tel Aviv. It is interesting, incidentally, that the only relic of the administration of Pontius Pilate as governor, aside from mention in the Gospels, is a stone carved with his name, a stone discovered in the ruins of Caesarea.)

The vast Roman empire, under one system of laws, allowed for movement from place to place. Thus, nationalities mixed. So, Acts refers to Jews, but also to “Greeks” as Jews at the time called foreigners.

Care of the needy and widows was urgent. The Romans had no social safety net as modern societies have now. The Apostles responded to this fact by reminding Christians that their task was to both teach the Gospel and to care for the needy. Such was the example of Jesus.

The Apostles chose seven holy men to be deacons to help serve those in need. Their action revealed not just a move to organize the Christian community, but it showed that the Apostles had the right to innovate in the name of Jesus.

First Peter provides the second reading, centering Jesus as essential in salvation. The reading urges Christians to be true to Jesus.

St. John’s Gospel supplies the last lesson that recalls the Lord’s discourse with the Apostles, alerting them as to what they should expect in the future.

Trouble will come, but Jesus was with them, “the way, the truth, and the life” (Jn 14:6).

Reflection

Almost a month has passed since Easter. For weeks, the Church joyfully has told us of the resurrection. He lives! Alleluia!

Before long, the season will end. We will return to life in 2020, with all its burdens and uncertainty, especially in economics and physical health.

The Church tells us not to lose heart. Jesus still is with us. He is our rock and our shield. He lives in the Church, the same as the community of the faithful described in Acts.

Applying Acts to the present is most interesting. Which Christian community truly resembles the gathering of Christians in Jerusalem long ago, precisely in their reliance upon the Apostles with St. Peter at their head? Bluntly speaking, it is the Catholic Church.

This modern community must profoundly be dedicated to the Lord by caring for the sick and the needy. Actively loving others is no charming optional item for Christians. It is at the essence of the Gospel.

The Church tells us, as the Easter season concludes, that Christ is with us. He lives. We must draw ourselves into this community that the Lord created by replicating the faith and compassion of the Lord, in fact, not just as an ideal.

Being in the Church is infinitely more than joining a club. †

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