As this Easter Season is nearing a close, we do well to ponder the picture of the early Church described in the Acts of the Apostles. The kind of persecution and suffering they endured in those days should serve to remind us of the sacrifices we are often unwilling to make.

Yet these early descriptions are also an affirmation of what we in effect (at least structurally) are. In these descriptions we see the ministry of St. Peter, of the first apostles: bishops, priests, deacons, and the lay faithful. We see sacraments being celebrated and the basic structure of the liturgy set forth. In these passages our Catholic faith is strongly affirmed. We see the Church in seminal form, already with her basic form and structures in place, all of which are recognizable to us.

Perhaps, though, we should examine the more challenging part of these descriptions, beyond the structure to the sacrifice. In Acts 5, there is a challenging portrait for the Church. This brief passage goes deeper than structures. It points toward the fundamental mission of the Church, a mission in which she courageously proclaims the truth, summons new followers to Christ, brings hope and healing, and drives out demons.

This is where all the structure “meets the road” and bears fruit for the kingdom of God. Thus, in this brief passage are many challenges for us as a Church. With all our structure and all our organization, do we accomplish these basic works of God? That is the challenge of such a reading.

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