I have spent two weeks helping to “stand-in” for the pastor of a Tennessee parish, following his being taken suddenly ill. During the daily and Sunday homilies, I have been drawing the profile of the missionary journeys of the apostles and disciples who took the Christian Gospel to the Roman world of Asia Minor.
This has not required an exhaustive preparation because the dramatic readings from the Acts of the Apostles have filled our Easter Season lectionary. Quite easily we have examined questions like: “What drove the apostles/disciples out into the periphery of the Roman Empire; what was their willingness to sacrifice based on?” “What was the message that the Apostles/disciples carried to their listeners?” “What is the model of the Church that emerges from the preaching of the Apostles/disciples?”
In today’s reading, Lydia, the dealer in cloth, has her heart opened to the words of the Apostle Paul, which leads to her and her household’s baptism. Lydia immediately seizes the moment to invite Paul and Barnabas to stay in her family’s home. This is a concise and essential summary of the nature of the Church and the model of Church. We become “Church” through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit working through the evangelization proclamation that invites to baptism. Once baptized, we become members of the “household of the Church”, the ecclesia. This community of the faithful connects us with the universal Church, but it also empowers us to be “Church” in more intimate settings, whether in an immediate family home, our parish family, or our local civic communities.
As I was concluding a recent homily on this topic of the Evangelizing Missionary Journeys in the Acts of the Apostles, I noticed that in the parish attendance that morning there were people of different nationalities, both proud natives of Tennessee, as well as so many others who had come from somewhere else, other States of the Union, and other countries across the globe. This prompted me to remind the parishioners that it was precisely this missionary commitment of the first generation Christians that led to our ancestors’ coming to receive the faith, perhaps centuries ago—in Germany, Poland, Russia, Ireland, England, and Latin America.
We are the fruit of these first missionary experiences of the first generation of Christians, particularly the journeys of Paul and Barnabas, which are highlighted in the Acts of the Apostles.
Fr. Arthur Carrillo, C.P. is the director of the Missions for Holy Cross Province. He lives in Chicago, Illinois.