MAY 2 Mon St Athanasius, Bishop and Doctor of the Church Memorial
Acts 6:8-15/Jn 6:22-29
3 Tue Ss Philip and James, Apostles Feast 1 Cor 15:1-8/Jn 14:6-14
4 Wed Easter Weekday Acts 8:1b-8/Jn 6:35-40
5 Thu Easter Weekday Acts 8:26-40/Jn 6:44-51
6 Fri Easter Weekday Acts 9:1-20/Jn 6:52-59
7 Sat Easter Weekday Acts 9:31-42/Jn 6:60-69
8 SUN FOURTH SUNDAY OF EASTER Acts 13:14, 43-52/Rv 7:9, 14b-17/Jn 10:27-30
The Mass readings this week from the Acts of the Apostles tell the story of the Greek-speaking deacon Stephen. His fiery preaching against temple worship and “stiff-necked” Jewish opposition to Jesus results in his death and a persecution that drives Greek-speaking Jewish Christians out of Jerusalem. (Monday and Tuesday) But Stephen’s death, like the death of Jesus, brings new life. The church grows. “The death of Christians is the seed of Christianity.” (Tertullian )
Philip the Deacon, one of those displaced, preaches to the Samaritans north of Jerusalem. Then, led by the Spirit, he converts the Ethiopian eunuch returning home after his pilgrimage to Jerusalem. (Wednesday and Thursday} Following Philip’s activity, Paul, the persecutor, is converted by Jesus himself. (Friday)
Before Paul’s ministry begins, Peter leaves Jerusalem to bless the new Christian communities near the coast; at Joppa he’s told by God to meet the Roman centurion in Caesarea Maritima. The mission to the gentile world begins with that meeting. (Saturday)
The Holy Spirit is at work. It’s hard to read this part of the Acts of the Apostles and not see that the church changes. From a church centered in Jerusalem, closely connected to the worship and politics of the temple, the Christian community moves to Antioch in Syria for its center, its ministers are no longer just original apostles like Peter, James and John. Stephen, Philip, Barnabas, Paul and others preach the gospel as God’s mysterious plan unfolds. The Christian communities move away from their connection to Jewish synagogues to become churches on their own, led by bishops, elders, deacons. Christians are no longer only Jews, gentiles from different parts of the Roman world become followers of Jesus.
The Acts of the Apostles reveal a developing, changing church. Furthermore, development and change are not limited to the early church; the church changes and develops in every age. It’s changing and developing now.
The gospel readings this week are from St.John’s gospel– segments of Jesus’ long discourse on the Bread of Life to the crowd at Capernaum after the miracle of the loaves. (John 6) In the Eucharist we meet the Risen Christ, who not only feeds us personally, but feeds a growing church.
St. Athanasius, a defender of the faith and the divinity of Christ, is remembered on Monday. The Apostles Philip and James are remembered on Tuesday.
Morning and Evening Prayer, 3rd week, here.