These are difficult days, but hardly unprecedented. Humankind has faced pandemics threats before, even as recently as the Ebola outbreak of 2014-2016. Our church has also faced challenges in our long history as a community of believers.
During these weeks, the book of the Bible called the Acts of the Apostles has a featured role in the Mass readings. In hearing Acts proclaimed we can draw great comfort from the fact that the first century of the church was not easy. Attributed to the author of the Gospel of Luke, Acts recounts the challenges, both internal and external, faced by the earliest disciples and those who followed during the first century. As a wise Augustinian philosophy professor once told me, The Acts of the Apostles is a testament to the power of the Holy Spirit.
Acts begins with Jesus’s instructions before promising the Holy Spirit and ascending into Heaven, and takes us from Jerusalem to the wider world, as His followers carried the message. We read of the coming of the Holy Spirit and the dramatic transformation of the apostles. We discover the challenges of Jewish customs for the Gentiles. We read of Paul’s conversion and his tireless missionary work, which took him through Asia Minor and all the way to Rome. We even get glimpses of the occasionally uneasy relationship between Paul and Peter, two men of very different backgrounds.
We listen to excerpts from Acts on Sunday and during the week. However, if you read Acts in its entirety, you will reap an even richer appreciation of the early church. Of course, you can read Acts online, but reading from a physical Bible is a reminder of the sacredness of this text to all believers. During these days when we are physically separated from our parish church and community, it would be a good idea to keep your Bible on display in a prominent part of your home. It deserves a place of honor.