In these days of Easter we have heard many speeches from the Apostle Peter as presented in the New Testament book entitled “Acts of the Apostles”. These speeches are testimony to the identity and mission of the Lord Jesus, and give witness to the extraordinary revelation of Christ the Lord’s resurrection from the dead.
In these speeches, the apostle Peter presents the totality of Christ’s revelation as the culmination of God’s revelation to the Israelites- God’s dramatic interventions on behalf of the Israelites throughout their long history come to a startling fulfillment in Christ and everything that the Israelites esteemed- their land, their temple, their scriptures, their customs, their identity and mission- all this finds is meaning and purpose in the Lord Jesus.
We have heard from the apostle Peter and now we hear from the apostle Paul.
Paul, as we know, was once a terrifying enemy of Christ and his Church, even being responsible for a great persecution of the Church that resulted in many Christians losing their lives. But God in Christ intervened in Paul’s life in a radical way and changed his life. The man who had professed to be the sworn enemy of the Lord Jesus and his Church became Christ’s friend and a servant of the Church.
In today’s excerpt from Acts of the Apostles, Paul tells what is best called “the great story”. The “great story” is how God acted in the history of the Israelites and how God’s actions reached their fulfillment in Christ. In other words, God had a plan, and that plan is slowly revealed over time in the history of the Israelites and the plan comes to its realization in Jesus Christ.
It is only in relation to the great story of God’s revelation to the Israelites that we can truly know who the Lord Jesus is and what he is all about. Thus, in his introduction of the people to the Lord Jesus, the apostle Paul recounts the “great story”.
When the Church even now proclaims at Mass readings from the Old Testament, the purpose is not so that the people can appreciate ancient literature or history, or to have a resource for anecdotes and life skills advice, but so that we can better understand the “great story” and in understanding the “great story”, better understand the Lord Jesus.
How well do you know the “great story” and if the answer is “not very well” then why remain satisfied with ignorance? What St. Paul is doing in the excerpt we heard from Acts of the Apostles today is something that all mature Christians should be able to do. Knowing the “great story” is not knowledge meant only for a privileged few. Knowing the “great story” is a responsibility for all Christians, because if you don’t know that story, how well will you be able to introduce people to Christ?
And the primary mission of a Christian is to introduce people to the Lord Jesus!
Christ the Lord testifies that no servant is greater than his master and in doing so he is telling us that we who are Christ’s servants should not expect to be exempt from the risky and raw experiences that characterized his own mission. We who aspire to the glory of Christ must be willing to accept as our own, the sufferings of Christ.
Knowing Christ will not exempt us from coming face to face with what is challenging and difficult. Christ transformed suffering through love and so must we. That transformation will never happen if we think that our faith exempts us from having to place our lives in Christ’s service, even if that means accepting the difficult and the unfamiliar.
Being a Christian is about much more than matriculating through faith based institutions or being the passive recipient of convenient faith based services. Being a Christian means imitating Christ by loving what he loves and serving what he served, and taking the risk, as he did, that what we love and serve, may not love us or serve us in return.