A Pilgrim Church, But Never Alone
Acts can serve as a template for the Church of today. The Holy Spirit guides the growing Church as it makes its way to the ends of the earth – to the center of world power – Rome. It will not be Peter or Paul who are the main actors but the Holy Spirit.
Yesterday Paul and Barnabas were touted as Gods, to day brings them rejection to the point of being stoned to death, and what follows in Derbe is an ordinary back to work day of proclaiming the good news. As they then retrace their steps to Antioch they add something new to their previous preaching, something learned, ‘We undergo many trials to enter into the Kingdom of God’. They give encouragement. Once home they spend time with the disciples and share ‘all that God had helped them accomplish, and how God had opened the door of faith to the gentiles.
In the early Church these were the days of mystagogy. That is a word we should all add to our vocabulary! Just to explain it is to give someone a catechetical lesson. A rich word really, but simply put it is the way of explaining the presence of the Risen Christ during this Easter season. It points the newly baptized to the sacraments. Our Lord prepares to leave, his presence will not be as before, he can not be held onto neither by the disciples of Emmaus nor Mary Magdalene. The catechesis of the newly baptized, the so called mystaogical catechesis, pointed the newly baptized members of the Church to the sacraments telling them that here is where you will find the Lord Jesus.
The Risen One is with us these Easter days and we hear him in the Word, in the breaking of the Bread, the water that gives life, the community of the Church, those who bear his wounds of, the poor and the Crucified of today. One day the Church seems exalted on another day it feels pelted with stones. Those who proclaim the good news have good times and no less trials as they follow Jesus. And how important was the encouragement that Paul and Barnabas gave!
Acts ends today with a gathering of the community; the Church is here a safe haven. The sowers have gone out into the field and labored, the seed is sown. Our response psalm sums it up nicely, “Your friends tell the glory of your kingship, Lord”. They hear from the lips of Paul and Barnabas “all that God had helped them accomplish, and how he had opened the door of faith to the gentiles”. Like us in the Easter season these friends rejoice to hear the words that will be written as the Acts of the Apostles, and they are nourished and refreshed in the breaking of the bread.
In John’s gospel Jesus speaks of the Holy Spirit and the Father. Let us hear an invitation to pray to this Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Praying to the Trinity may not be your usual approach to prayer? As we the Church journey with trails, are generous with encouragement, both sowers and reapers who savor the sacraments, let us pray to the Trinity whom Jesus introduces to us a pilgrim Church but one that is never alone.
Fr. William Murphy, CP is a member of Immaculate Conception Community in Jamaica, New York.