The readings at Mass during the Easter season are a constant reminder of our mission as disciples. Throughout the season, the first readings come from the book of Acts, detailing the events of the early days of the Church when the Apostles, filled with the Holy Spirit, were obeying the command of Christ to teach the nations. These first followers of Jesus were taking the remarkable story of the Incarnation and Resurrection and telling Jews and Gentiles about the marvelous events that seen with their own eyes.
Although we are not eyewitnesses in the same way they were, the Church of Acts should look pretty familiar to us. It’s clearly the Catholic Church.
As we see in this Sunday’s first reading, the Apostles preached the good news and then followed up that Gospel with the sacraments. Baptism and Confirmation are given to the crowds who were hungry to follow this new way the Apostles had preached. After the crowds received the sacraments, they too became witnesses and disciples who are given the same mission: to go and spread the Gospel.
There was a visible Church, as we saw in last Sunday’s first reading, which made decisions and governed this new way of life. Christ had given them a mission, not a book or a code of canon law. It was up to them to govern this new Church. Knowing this mission was both daunting and divine, Christ gave them the Holy Spirit, empowering them to make decisions and shape the Church for the centuries to come. Whether that decision was the ordination of deacons (Acts 6:1-7) or the requirements for Gentile converts (Acts 15), these were the actions of the young Magisterium.
As you prepare for Mass this Sunday, I suggest reading the Gospel first (Jn 14:15-21), then the first reading (Acts 8:5-8, 14-17). What you’ll see is Jesus preparing his followers for this daunting mission, and then his followers carrying that mission out. Christ didn’t promise them an instruction manual, but the Spirit. He warned them that he was going to leave them, but he reassured them that he would not abandon them. Jesus was leaving the Apostles – not because his work was finished, but so that they would continue that work. In the first reading, we see a fulfillment of that mission. The Apostles were doing great works – not of their own accord, but through the Spirit.
Then in the second reading, we find our part to play in this drama (1 Pt 3:15-18). We don’t listen to our family story in the Scriptures simply for historical record, but because it is living and active and reminds us of our own mission. In this reading from 1 Peter, our first Pope reminds us that we too must carry on the mission of Acts. We must live lives that cause people to wonder. They may wonder why we live counter-culturally or why we won’t follow the crowd. Or they might wonder why we live lives of hope and joy. We must live in a way that causes people to question why we’re living so differently. If we aren’t, then we aren’t living as Christians.
Then we must be able to answer their questions. Why do I believe what I believe? Why do I allow my beliefs to impact the choices I make or the way I live? And why do I live as one who has hope? If that means increasing our knowledge of Church teaching, then we must do so. If that means increasing our prayer life, we must do so. We must do whatever we need to do to be able to share the Gospel, in joy, with others.
This Sunday’s readings and the readings throughout the Easter season remind us that our life as Catholics must be daily animated by the Spirit. We must continue the mission that was given to the Apostles and lived so vigorously in the days of the early Church. Christ does not leave us orphans; he is with us as we go out to spread his love and proclaim Him to the nations—even if that proclamation looks less like the mighty deeds of Philip in Acts 8 and more like the witness of a daily life lived in hope, and the nations less like the people of Samaria and more like our coworkers at the office.