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A Look at the Early Catholic Church from the Acts of the Apostles

acts of the apostlesThe second reading from last Sunday’s Mass (5th Sunday of Easter) is very Catholic, and too informative to merely pass up. It presents the Church as rather highly organized and possessed of some of the structures we know today in full form. Granted, some of these structures are in seminal form, but they arethere.

We will also notice qualities of the original kerygma that are at variance with what some modern thinkers declare should be the methodology of the Church. The soft Christianity of those who replace the cross with a pillow and who insist on solely inclusion and affirmation is strangely absent in this early setting.

Let’s look the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 14:21-27) and see there the true path of priests, teachers, and leaders in the Church. Four steps are prescribed for our consideration, by noting that they went forth announcing, admonishing, appointing, and accounting.

  1. Announcing– The text says,After Paul and Barnabas had proclaimed the good news to that city and made a considerable number of disciples …

Notice that the happiness is linked to the harvest. By proclaiming the Good News, they yield a great harvest. As Catholics, we are not sent out merely to proclaim a list of duties; we are sent to proclaim the Gospel. And the Gospel is this: God so loved the world that He sent his Son, who by dying and rising from the dead has purchased for us a whole new life, free from sin and the rebellious obsessions of this world. He is victorious over all the death-directed drives of this world. Simply put, he has triumphed over these forces and enabled us to walk in newness of life.

God save us from brands of the faith in which rules and obligations are all that is heard by sour-faced saints, dead disciples, fussy Pharisees, bored believers, and frozen chosen. Save us from Pharisaical philosophers who are obsessed with particulars not even commanded by God, who sneer at things they consider beneath than their preferences.

No, we are sent to announce a new life, a life free from the bondage of sin, rebellion, sensuality, greed, lust, domination, and revenge. We are sent to announce a life of joy, confidence, purity, chastity, generosity, and devotion to the truth rooted in Love.

Yes, here is a joyful announcement rooted in the cry Anastasis (Resurrection)! New Life! The old order of sin is gone and a new life of freedom from sin is here!

Did everyone accept this as good news? No. Some, indeed many, were offended and sought to convict Christians as “disturbers of the peace.” Some don’t like to have their sin and bondage called out as such. They prefer bondage, sin, and darkness to light, holiness, and freedom.

As Catholics, we announce what is intrinsically good news, and we ought to start sounding like it by proclaiming it with joy. We must proclaim it without the bitterness and anger that are indicative of those who are more interested in winning an argument than in joyfully announcing something wonderful, freeing, and true.

Read more at Community in Mission.

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