Archbishop Peter A Comensoli
I always enjoy our annual Easter read-through of Luke’s Acts of the Apostles. Luke is the evangelist of actions and deeds; he’s interested in God’s relationship with his people rather than in image or concepts of faith.
Today’s passage from the Acts is a good example of this. Luke gives us a brief travel-log of Paul and Barnabas’s first great missionary journey. This journey through the Greek-speaking world came after Paul’s integration into the life of the Christian Church after his conversion. What he did on this journey was to integrate his gentile mission into Christ’s gospel.
Today, we might call this ‘church planting’: the seeding of the gospel message in places that have not heard – or have lost – the good news about Jesus Christ. It is essentially the embedding of the Christian message of faith, hope and love into a particular culture and amongst a particular group of people.
I like especially Luke’s description of what Paul and Barnabas were trying to do: They put fresh heart into the disciples, encouraging them to persevere in the faith. Wouldn’t you like to have such a description painted of yourself: Someone who seeks to give fresh heart – new hope – to the lives of others?
Then there is the account of all that God had done with Paul and Barnabas, and how they had opened the door of faith to the Greeks. Telling the Christian story is always a story of blessings, great and small, even when it can be tinged with moments of grief, struggle and disappointment along the way, as it has been in our local church of Melbourne.
These various actions recorded by Luke are full of hints about our Christian life generally. The mission of proclaiming Jesus Christ – and our integration into his Body – is the principle task of every Christian – whether bishop, priest, religious or lay person. None of us have completed the task of coming into the life of the Church, which is the same as saying: our life-long task is to daily come into contact with the life of Christ. By our deeds will we be known as Christians.
Along the way we have the opportunity to gather with each other to recall the stories of our work with our fellow travelers. Sunday is our day of gathering as the family of Christ’s disciples. A family needs family members, and a home to be together; it demands of us to be generous in our welcoming and care of each other.
Often enough, we are called upon to undertake specific jobs and ministries to make the life of Christ better known to others, just as Paul was. These requests set us apart, not as if we are ‘better than’, but because we are ‘ready for’ service for the sake of the gospel. Ours is not a privileged life, but a life that is a privilege to live.
Perhaps we might best sum up Luke’s gospel of action and deed as being a way for us to live as God’s people – he offers us the stories of our Christian forebears, and suggests to us how we can live accordingly. Luke shines a light on the ways in which we believers can organize our lives in Christ.