Here we are, in the most festive season of the Church: Easter – a period of time that is not one day, but six weeks!
And yet, for many, as we begin this Easter season, it may still feel very much like Lent. For some, it may still feel like Holy Week. It is a difficult time for many, yet, for all of us, this is the usual dynamic for our spiritual life. There are peaks and valleys; there are ebbs and flows, and those don’t necessarily follow the liturgical seasons of Advent, Christmas, Lent, and Easter. They don’t even follow Ordinary Time much either (even though sometimes they feel very ordinary).
Except this season is anything but ordinary. What’s more extraordinary is that we are going through this valley as a global community. We still have our own personal valleys to go through, but for some reason, this time, God has allowed for us to journey through this one together.
And even though it may feel very much like Lent, we must not forget for one instant that it is Easter. We must never forget that it is always Easter. We are reminded of that every time we go to Mass and celebrate the Eucharist – we are an Easter people!
But this Easter will continue without communal Mass or liturgies, and so it is more important that we do everything to remind ourselves that we are an Easter people.
That’s not always easy to do.
When I was thinking about what to deacon-struct during the Easter season, I thought of hope: We should deacon-struct hope. Then I thought of the Acts of the Apostles, which is the book that we read throughout the Easter season at Mass. It is my favourite book of the Bible because it is our story: We are living the Acts of the Apostles. As I pondered this, I read the interview that Pope Francis granted his biographer, Austen Ivereigh, and was published in Commonweal
last week. (You can also read Kristina Glicksman’s commentary on it here
In the interview, Pope Francis says that we must live in the “tension between disorder and harmony: this is the church that must come out of the crisis.” It is the Holy Spirit that forces us to live in this tension, and that is a theme that is prevalent in the Book of Acts.
With that I was resolved: I will look at the Book of Acts and find those moments where there is a tension between disorder and harmony. But let’s not end there. Let’s also look at where hope can be found in the midst of that tension. We will do so as we look at the daily readings during the next six weeks.
Get your Bible and open it to the Acts of the Apostles and read along.
This first week of Easter should be seen as an extended day that lasts 8 days. This is why next Sunday is referred to as the “octave of Easter”. Those who pray the Office of the Church will have noticed that we pray the same exact prayers of Easter Sunday every day, all week.
At Mass, we begin reading the Acts of the Apostles on Easter Sunday. The first reading is from Acts 10 with one of Peter's many sermons in Acts. But it is on Monday where we need to begin, with Acts 2 before ending the week on the fourth chapter on Saturday. Next Sunday we go back to Acts 2:42-47, which was not part of the weekday readings.
So, throughout the week, we will read part of Peter’s first sermon after Pentecost (2:22-33, Monday) and the people’s response to it (2:36-41, Tuesday). Then Peter and John heal a man who was crippled from birth (3:1-10, Wednesday), and Peter addresses the crowd again (3:11-26, Thursday). Afterwards, Peter and John are questioned by the chief priests (4:1-12, Friday), and finally, we learn of the chief priests’ response to Peter and John’s reply to their accusations (4:13-21, Saturday).
What do these readings show us? Chaos and confrontation, and healing and hope. We see Peter, who had been scared and broken, become transformed by the Holy Spirit and preach the longest sermon in Scripture. He preaches the Good News summarized. He challenges people, and that leads to the conversion of thousands. Then we see more brokenness: a beggar who had a disability since birth, and then healing and joy. This healing leads to joy and praise, but also to chaos and commotion. Yet there are more conversions. Finally, the authorities feel threatened, and they try to assert their power. There is confrontation, and there are accusations. And Peter preaches again. After more threats, they are released, and “all were praising God for what had happened.”
Disorder and harmony.
Keep in mind that this is all happening about two months after the Resurrection. On the 2nd Sunday of Easter, we go back to Acts 2:42-27. Here we read what’s happening after Peter’s first sermon which led to the conversion of three thousand and before the healing of the man born with a disability.
Acts tells us that the people “devoted themselves to the Apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (2:42). It also says that they “had all things in common” (2:44). Imagine, two months after the Resurrection and disciples were already devoting themselves to the teachings of the Apostles, to fellowship, to the breaking of the bread, and to prayers. They also had all things in common; they were a community. Two thousand years later, we are still doing the same things.
There's still disorder, but there is also harmony.
What does Peter preach throughout all these readings? He preaches words of hope. It doesn’t mean that all he says is nice and easy to hear (“this man, Jesus, whom you killed” - 2:23), but the message is always of hope:
- “God raised Jesus; of this we are all witnesses” (2:32).
- Repent and be baptized and you will receive the Holy Spirit” (2:38).
- “In the name of Jesus Christ, rise and walk” (3:6).
- “Repent that the Lord may grant you times of refreshment and send you the Christ” (3:19-20).
- There is no salvation through anyone else (but Jesus)” (4:12).
- It is impossible for us not to speak about what we have seen and heard” (4:20).
This week, as you go through these first four chapters of the Book of Acts, remember the tension between disorder and harmony. Imagine the chaos, but also see the hope in the Good News that Peter and the Apostles continually force us to remember.
This week, remember that even after the Resurrection, the disciples were afraid and felt lost. They did not understand. Like us today, their Easter season still felt very much like Holy Saturday.
This Easter, make a point of reading the teachings of the Apostles (through the Teachings of the Church), spending more time in prayer, breaking bread as a family, and practicing Spiritual Communion as much as possible. It may not be easy now to participate in those things as a community – all the more reason to value it, cherish it and do what we can to encourage it in any way we can.
Let’s also, without going overboard, use the technological tools that we have in order to stay connected, to build community and create fellowship.
And also, read the Book of Acts.
In that, you will find hope.
Come back next week
so we can continue looking for hope in the Book of Acts.
Every week, Deacon Pedro takes a particular topic apart, not so much to explore or explain the subject to its fullness, but rather to provide insights that will deepen our understanding of the subject. And don’t worry, at the end of the day he always puts the pieces back together. There are no limits to deaconstructing: Write to him and ask any questions about the faith or Church teaching: firstname.lastname@example.org