In the passages from the New Testament readings of last week (Acts 4 & 5), we see that the tiny community of believers, not yet referred to as Christians, was trying to share everything they had with one another, especially those who had more with those who had less. We see that they took seriously what Jesus had taught about living in unity and prayerfulness, with the Eucharist at the center of their celebrations and love as the glue which held them together. Additionally, the teaching of the apostles was very important because these men were the witnesses to Jesus: they knew Him better than anyone else, but they also were witnesses to His resurrection in that they were taught by Him for the forty days before His ascension. Therefore this fledgling community was on fire with love and the Good News, desiring to share it with the world as Jesus had instructed. It was this very zeal and commitment to sharing that got Peter and John arrested by the religious authorities who were jealous of their success with the crowds.
We are spiritual descendants of those first Christians and we will always be Easter people. Reading these passages, therefore, should encourage us to reflect upon our encounters with people. If we had been living at that time and we had not witnessed what the apostles had experienced, if we had never heard of Jesus the Nazarene before that moment, would we have listened to these men? What would have compelled us to take them seriously? After all, they were talking about a man who they claimed was the Son of God, a notion that was considered blasphemous by the Jewish people. These preachers were just the sort of men of which a good many Jewish mothers and fathers may have put their hands over their children’s ears and said, “Come away now. Do not go near that kind of people.” They might have told one another that these were dangerous men who were maybe even a little crazy because they claimed to see a dead man, they claimed that God’s Spirit had descended upon them; they claimed that pouring water over your head could initiate you into their group and that it would give you some power. They must be mad!
The woman made a claim that was truly odd, (and I am in no way suggesting that we believe everything we hear from others), but there was something about it that was reminiscent of the readings for this week. Upon reflection, what took place made me think of the apostles in the Temple area making claims that might have felt equally ‘off.’ While I know this woman was not who she claimed to be, and that the apostles were in fact authentic, it still taught me that we cannot discount anyone from being an instrument of God. That I am still thinking about this woman is proof enough for me. There were things in what she said that were strikingly symbolic. For example, her tattoo which ‘proved the presence of the Spirit within her’ reminded me of the indelible mark we are given through baptism and confirmation! So while she was indeed not who she believed herself to be, there was truth somewhere deep inside of her, muddled by her brokenness and affliction.
May we continue to celebrate the joy of the Easter season in our liturgical celebrations! May we learn to see the presence of Jesus in others, especially those who come to us in ‘distressing disguise’! May we share everything about our life in Christ in word and deed without hesitation! And may we find the inspiration for mercy, charity, and prayer in our communities of faith so that we may live our spiritual life to the full! Let us continue to meet in the Heart of the Risen Jesus! Alleluia! Peace!
©Michele L. Catanese
The first icon is called The Risen Christ by Fr. William Hart McNichols. I chose this because of the colors surrounding Jesus, which bring out the vibrancy of Him being alive, fully divine but also fully human. Jesus, who breathed upon the apostles when He appeared to them, seems about to breathe on us, too. It can be found at http://fineartamerica.com/featured/the-risen-christ-014-william-hart-mcnichols.html
If you want to purchase a copy as a plaque, giclee or card, go to the link and follow the directions. And explore the rest of the site, too: there are some gorgeous icons and images there.
The second image is a painting called St. Peter preaching in the Presence of St. Mark by Fra Angelico. Although it is a depiction of Peter in a Renaissance setting it does convey the zeal of Peter and the rapt crowds listening to his words.
Next is actually a photo which I took in a church in Salzburg, Austria. I chose this because it is not very clear. It almost seems to be pastels rather than oils which were used in this painting, probably because it has faded with age. But it conveys a blurring of reality and seems unfinished, incomplete; just as the woman I met was not clear as to who she really was, but did convey something which pointed to the presence of Christ, so too this rendering points to Christ, but we have to discern what we are seeing.
Next is another of my photos, taken also in Austria. I chose it because it is full of life, but you have to look closely to see the many houses on the hillside behind the city.
Finally, a photo taken by my husband of a square in Munich, Germany. I chose it because this is a modern day 'Temple square,' a place where people come and go as they attend to their daily lives. This is the world in which we live, so to speak; it is in the marketplace that we tell people everything about this life of being a Christian.