Introduction to the Acts of the Apostles
The Acts of the Apostles, the second volume of Luke’s two-volume work, continues Luke’s presentation of biblical history, describing how the salvation promised to Israel in the Old Testament and accomplished by Jesus has now under the guidance of the holy Spirit been extended to the Gentiles. This was accomplished through the divinely chosen representatives whom Jesus prepared during his ministry and commissioned after his resurrection as witnesses to all that he taught. Luke’s preoccupation with the Christian community as the Spirit-guided bearer of the word of salvation rules out of his book detailed histories of the activity of most of the preachers. Only the main lines of the roles of Peter and Paul serve Luke’s interest. Peter was the leading member of the Twelve, a miracle worker like Jesus in the gospel, the object of divine care, and the spokesman for the Christian community, who, according to Luke, was largely responsible for the growth of the community in the early days.
Paul eventually joined the community at Antioch, which subsequently commissioned him and Barnabas to undertake the spread of the gospel to Asia Minor. This missionary venture generally failed to win the Jews of the diaspora to the gospel but enjoyed success among the Gentiles. Paul’s refusal to impose the Mosaic law upon his Gentile converts provoked very strong objection among the Jewish Christians of Jerusalem, but both Peter and James supported his position. Paul’s second and third missionary journeys resulted in the same pattern of failure among the Jews generally but of some success among the Gentiles. Paul, like Peter, is presented as a miracle worker and the object of divine care.
In Acts, Luke has provided a broad survey of the church’s development from the resurrection of Jesus to Paul’s first Roman imprisonment, the point at which the book ends. In telling this story, Luke describes the emergence of Christianity from its origins in Judaism to its position as a religion of worldwide status and appeal. Originally a Jewish Christian community in Jerusalem, the church was placed in circumstances impelling it to include within its membership people of other cultures: the Samaritans, at first an occasional Gentile, and finally the Gentiles on principle. Fear on the part of the Jewish people that Christianity, particularly as preached to the Gentiles, threatened their own cultural heritage caused them to be suspicious of Paul’s gospel. The inability of Christian missionaries to allay this apprehension inevitably created a situation in which the gospel was preached more and more to the Gentiles. Toward the end of Paul’s career, the Christian communities, with the exception of those in Palestine itself, were mainly of Gentile membership. In tracing the emergence of Christianity from Judaism, Luke is insistent upon the prominence of Israel in the divine plan of salvation and that the extension of salvation to the Gentiles has been a part of the divine plan from the beginning. In the development of the church from a Jewish Christian origin in Jerusalem, with its roots in Jewish religious tradition, to a series of Christian communities among the Gentiles of the Roman empire, Luke perceives the action of God in history laying open the heart of all humanity to the divine message of salvation. His history of the apostolic church is the story of a Spirit-guided community and a Spirit-guided spread of the Word of God. The travels of Peter and Paul are in reality the travels of the Word of God as it spreads from Jerusalem, the city of destiny for Jesus, to Rome, the capital of the civilized world of Luke’s day. Luke argues that Christianity is deserving of the same toleration accorded Judaism by Rome. Part of Paul’s defense before Roman authorities is to show that Christianity is not a disturber of the peace of the Roman Empire. Moreover, when he stands before Roman authorities, he is declared innocent of any crime against the empire. Luke tells his story with the hope that Christianity will be treated as fairly.
AUGUST 23 Tuesday
St. Rome of Lima
When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last, and great FEAR came upon all who heard of it.
Piety, Generosity and Holiness cannot be pretended. Ananias’s story is a lesson in honesty. You cannot fool God, who knows your heart and mind.
The problem with pretending
NANCY and JOE
True leaders give of themselves liberally. Being a liberal does not make one generous. Nor does pretending to be thus comes the sad story of Ananias and Sapphira.
In the early church in Jerusalem a group of believers were so filled with the Holy Spirit that they were of one heart and one mind. So, knit together were the hearts of the people that they held all their possessions loosely and willingly shared them with one another, not because they were coerced but because they loved one another. Those who sold land and houses gave of their profits to the apostles, who distributed the gifts to those in need. Ananias and his wife, Sapphira also had sold a field. Part of the profit from their sale was kept back by the couple, and only laid a part of the money was laid at the apostles’ feet. Ananias made a pretense of having given all the proceeds. Peter, who was filled with the power of the Spirit knew instantly that Ananias was lying—not just to him but to God—and exposed his hypocrisy then and there. Ananias fell down and died. When Sapphira showed up, she, too, lied to Peter and to God, saying that they had donated the entire proceeds of the sale of the land to the church. When her lie had been exposed, she also fell down and died at Peter’s feet. This was the sin of hypocrisy. It can be easy today to gloss over the holiness of God, to forget that He is righteous and pure and that He hates sin wholeheartedly.
Here God removed a spiritual cancer from the church by taking their lives and as Luke states in the Acts, “Fear (holy) came upon all the church.” Looking more closely at the problem we can see Ananias and Sapphira:
1. Clung to their possessions.
2. Agreed to lie about their giving.
3. Pretended to be someone they were not.
4. Thought they could get by with appearing to be generous.
5. Felt more concerned with their image than their relationship to God.
There is no better consolation under crosses and afflictions than the thought that all the troubles of this world are not to be compared with the glory to come and that which is at present momentary and light of our tribulation worketh for us above measure exceedingly an eternal weight of glory (n. Cor. iv. 17). And, therefore, St. Bede says: If we had to bear for a while the pains of hell, it would not appear so hard, if thereby we might merit to see Christ in His glory, and to be added to His saints. 
In God We Trust
Life is filled with many
difficulties and challenges that cause us to worry. Each day we are confronted
with many events that may cause us to become apprehensive. What is
worry? The dictionary says that when we worry, we torment ourselves with
disturbing thoughts. According to the National Institutes of Health, one
in three adults has occasional insomnia, and one in ten adults has chronic
sleeplessness. Experts are concerned about the ever-increasing
consumption of sleeping pills by many Americans. The remedy for worry is
for all of us to trust in God. St. Augustine once said that God is closer
to us than we are to ourselves. We experience God through our life of
prayer. Prayer is conversation with God. Prayer is a continual being in
love because God is real. God is personal. No matter what
might be going on in our lives, we must always pray and pray daily.
Prayer is the air that we breathe. One of the greatest challenges that we
encounter is our inability to see and to listen to God. We can be caught
up in the distractions of daily life that prevent us from really encountering
God. Our busy lives require refreshing times of prayer throughout the
day. God is moving us away from clinging to things, people and
institutions. He is calling us to detachment, to the desert, to the
journey into the night of naked faith. He is calling us to cling to him
and only him. This journey is difficult, frightening at times and even
risky. But, those who embark upon the journey will be transformed into
living witnesses of the God of love. However, without a serious spiritual life,
anxiety and fear will overwhelm us. If we are a people who live truly spiritual
lives, we will be filled with peace and joy no matter what may be going on
around us. And this is so, because we will always be able to trust God.
St. Teresa of Avila, the famous Spanish mystic, once wrote: "Let nothing trouble you. Let nothing frighten you. Everything passes. God never changes. Patience obtains all. Whoever has God, wants for nothing. God alone is enough."
St. Teresa provides us profound words of wisdom for our present times. The staggering number of prescription drugs available for the many forms of uneasiness and tension illustrates that many of our contemporaries suffer deep inner turmoil. It is true that we are experiencing profound challenges: wars, continual threats of terrorism, problems within our Catholic Church, the rapidly accelerating unraveling of moral decency in our society, an uncertain economy and the terrible wounds caused by the dismantling of family life. Nevertheless, challenges such as these should remind us that we must always trust in God who is always with us. Trust is rooted in faith which is a gift. If your faith is weak, ask God to give you more faith. To do this incorporate into your lives four practices that are so basic for anyone who wants to be a serious Catholic: contemplative prayer, daily Mass or a prolonged visit before the Blessed Sacrament, daily Rosary and the frequent use of the Sacrament of Confession. These four things will allow you to trust God and they will provide you with the interior peace that all seek.
What are the practical steps that we can take in order to incorporate into our busy lives a serious spiritual life?
· First of all, we need balance in our lives. When was the last time that we enjoyed dinner with family and friends, or turned off our cell phone and refrained from checking our email at every moment? Excessive work and travel, excessive involvement in sports and entertainment are tearing us apart.
· Secondly, a serious spiritual life requires the capacity to be alone. It is difficult to be alone in our contemporary society. Even when we are alone, the noise of our own worries and fears drown out the silence of God's voice. Many people are incapable of being alone and they immediately feel an obsession to talk with someone on a cell phone or check their email. We all need moments of solitude. Spending a quiet time before the Eucharist, reading the Scriptures during a peaceful moment at home, taking tranquil walks through the woods or along the beach all are necessary for our soul. In order to be with God, we must develop the ability to be alone with ourselves.
· Thirdly, we need order in our lives. Working out daily schedules for the entire family by setting realistic priorities and minimizing extra-curricular activities for the children are steps that we can take. Early to bed and early to rise is a wise principle which is still valid today.
Catechism of the Catholic Church
PART TWO: THE CELEBRATION OF THE CHRISTIAN MYSTERY
SECTION TWO-THE SEVEN SACRAMENTS OF THE CHURCH
Article 4-THE SACRAMENT OF PENANCE AND RECONCILIATION
IX. The Effects of This Sacrament
1468 "The whole power of the sacrament of Penance consists in restoring us to God's grace and joining us with him in an intimate friendship." Reconciliation with God is thus the purpose and effect of this sacrament. For those who receive the sacrament of Penance with contrite heart and religious disposition, reconciliation "is usually followed by peace and serenity of conscience with strong spiritual consolation." Indeed the sacrament of Reconciliation with God brings about a true "spiritual resurrection," restoration of the dignity and blessings of the life of the children of God, of which the most precious is friendship with God.
1469 This sacrament reconciles us with the Church. Sin damages or even breaks fraternal communion. the sacrament of Penance repairs or restores it. In this sense it does not simply heal the one restored to ecclesial communion, but has also a revitalizing effect on the life of the Church which suffered from the sin of one of her members. Re-established or strengthened in the communion of saints, the sinner is made stronger by the exchange of spiritual goods among all the living members of the Body of Christ, whether still on pilgrimage or already in the heavenly homeland:
It must be recalled that . . . this reconciliation with God leads, as it were, to other reconciliations, which repair the other breaches caused by sin. the forgiven penitent is reconciled with himself in his inmost being, where he regains his innermost truth. He is reconciled with his brethren whom he has in some way offended and wounded. He is reconciled with the Church. He is reconciled with all creation.
1470 In this sacrament, the sinner, placing himself before the merciful judgment of God, anticipates in a certain way the judgment to which he will be subjected at the end of his earthly life. For it is now, in this life, that we are offered the choice between life and death, and it is only by the road of conversion that we can enter the Kingdom, from which one is excluded by grave sin. In converting to Christ through penance and faith, the sinner passes from death to life and "does not come into judgment."
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 John Maxwell, The Maxwell Leadership Bible.
Goffine’s Devout Instructions, 1896.