The Acts of the Apostles
The Acts of the Apostles record the Ascension of Jesus and then the descent of the Holy Spirit on the apostles, the first Pentecost experience – the life of the first Christian communities and the beginnings of our Church. It is through this same spirit that so many people became believers in the risen Lord. The Holy Spirit gave the new Christians the ability to understand God’s will and to live together in love and mutual respect, as evidenced in Acts of the Apostles 2: 42-47 and Acts of the Apostles 4: 32-34. The early Church in Acts 2 drew its strength from their Sunday worship. We also draw our strength from the Eucharist – it should be the source of our unity.
After Jesus’ death the apostles, our Blessed Mother, and others retreated to the Upper Room, possibly out of fear and assuredly for prayer. While in Jerusalem they had their first Pentecost experience when the Holy Spirit manifested His presence by a strong driving wind and tongues of fire. “They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.” God’s presence entered their lives and began to transform them.
Spirit-filled Peter quoted the Prophet Joel’s words of the promise of the Holy Spirit. Peter who had denied knowing Jesus on three separate occasions was no longer able to keep the Good News of the Resurrected Christ to himself. He publicly declared Jesus’ lordship. Comparing Peter in the gospel narratives to Peter in the Acts of the Apostles, we can see the change brought on by the Holy Spirit. The once impulsive Peter, who cut off Malchus’ ear, becomes a bold, dedicated, and effective leader. Peter who was unable to follow Jesus’ direction to walk on water was now capable of performing healing miracles in the name of Jesus. The Holy Spirit, working on earth, guided the apostles to profess with confidence that Jesus, the risen Lord, was the long-awaited Messiah. Peter became the leading evangelizer of the Jewish people. His work resulted in the conversion of thousands of Jewish people to Christianity.
The early Christian community felt the manifestation of God’s presence and an empowering boldness from the Holy Spirit. The love within these communities empowered their witness to the gospel. Thus, the adage, “they will know we are Christians by our love”. Like the early church, we are called to promote social justice, communion, peace, and solidarity.
Luke, in his writings, pointed to Jerusalem as the place where salvation is accomplished. It is from Jerusalem that the church began to spread through Judea, Samaria, Rome, and into areas of North Africa. After the descent of the Holy Spirit, we all were commissioned to be heralds and witnesses just like when Jesus told his apostles before his ascension to “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature”. Jesus taught all he encountered about God by word and lived the Word by the actions and attitudes of His daily life. The Jewish people who were expecting the “messiah” expected a “king”. Instead, they received a baby born in a stable with animals. Jesus did not preach what they wanted to hear. He taught to turn the other cheek. He asked that we serve and not be served.
God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. His Spirit encourages us to live lives of loving service to one another. The Spirit empowers. Jesus is the perfect example of the one who follows wherever God’s will leads. As recipients of the Holy Spirit, we are to be prime examples of the love of God and have an obligation to reflect God’s nature.
The Acts of the Apostles demonstrate to us the “signs” of God’s power manifested through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Acts 5:15: Peter was so filled with the Holy Spirit that his shadow had the power to heal.
– The Apostles were witnessed healing the blind (9:17-18),
– The Apostles were witnessed healing the paralyzed (9:33-35),
– The Apostles were witnessed healing the lame (14:7-9),
– The Apostles were witnessed healing the possessed (16:16-18),
– The Apostles were witnessed healing a man with severe diarrhea (28:7-8) .
It is also in the Acts of the Apostles that St. Luke recounts the conversion of Paul on the road to Damascus.