As we listen to the readings today keep in mind that these writings (Luke’s Acts of the Apostles, John’s Apocalypse and Gospel) were composed only forty to sixty years after the death of Jesus. In those decades the community of those who believe Jesus as the unique revelation of God had grown and spread beginning in Jerusalem but moving along trade routes to many places in what we know as the middle East (Israel, Turkey, Syria) into Europe (Greece, Macedonia, Italy) and on into Asia (India).
The communities have taken shape in the organizational structure with bishops, presby-ters (priests) deacons, deaconesses, orders of widows and the like. From these communi-ties come the writers we know as evangelists (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John). Others (Paul, James, John, Peter) wrote letters that were treasured by the communities who re-ceived them and shared them with other communities.
The accounts we listen to reveal that from its beginning, the reality we recognize today as Church walked onto the world stage self-aware, self-confident, self-directing. No permission was asked of any authority to proclaim in public the mes-sage they had about Jesus. Opposition such as Peter and the apostles faced from the Jewish religious leaders did not deter them. Even physical punishments and death did not stop them going about what they saw as the mission entrusted to them by God because of their belief in Jesus.
The Church will grow in size and organizational complexity but it remains what it was when it first walked onto the world stage. John’s gospel with its puzzling reference to the number of fish (153) caught in the miraculous catch when the disciples had the first ever church breakfast meeting is in all likelihood a reference to the number of nations that at that time were thought to exit in the whole world.
This message and the person whose presence was alive and active in their communities did indeed reach to the ends of the earth. Pope Francis made reference to this in his comment on his being chosen successor of Peter as bishop of Rome when he said the cardings in choosing him for the office had to go to the ends of the earth to find him.
The Church is a world-wide enterprise and must always be at home on the world stage. Like Peter whom Jesus tested with a direct yet gentle three-fold examination of his love for him assuring him that his earlier three-fold denial was no barrier to his being entrusted with the strengthening role that was to be his and his successors, so too we, the Church of today, will be tested about our failures, denials and sins not to disqualify us from continuing to share the faith, but to protect us from arrogance and pride as we share our faith with others.
Fr Adrian Farrelly
|Apr 17, 2013||The Early Church walks the world stage||Listen||Download|