‘All that God had done with them’

Fifth Sunday of Easter (C)

During the Easter season we read from the Acts of the Apostles which recounts the early years of the Church. The Acts begins with events in Jerusalem. Following the dramatic outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the Apostles begin to speak publicly about Jesus, emphasising that he is risen from the dead. This upsets the Jewish religious authorities but the Apostles are fearless, St Peter declaring that obedience is to God and not to men.

Further, St Luke records a number of miracles worked by the Apostles. The power of God is clearly in evidence. There are also clear manifestations of the action of the Holy Spirit. Increasing numbers of people become believers.

Early persecution causes many Christians to leave Jerusalem and they take their enthusiasm for the faith beyond Jerusalem. Soon Christian communities are springing up in cities outside Judea. The first significant community is in Damascus.

Then St Paul comes on the scene. After his dramatic conversion he becomes a bold evangelist and takes up missionary journeys gradually going further and further afield. Today’s first reading speaks of the return of Paul and Barnabas back through communities that they had established on what was the first of these missionary journeys.

St Paul undertook four missionary journeys throughout his ministry. Paul’s first three missionary journeys are recorded in Acts, and the fourth is mentioned throughout Paul’s letters to various churches. He would end his life, as did St Peter, in Rome where he was eventually martyred for the faith.

We are told that when Paul and Barnabas had returned to their starting point at Antioch the Christians in that city gathered to hear them recount what they had experienced. St Luke says that they “gave an account of all that God had done with them and how God had opened the door of faith to the pagans”. They acknowledged not what they had done, but what God had done in and through them.

This was an exhilarating time. Not only the Apostles, but for the many new believers, full of joy at the faith that they now had, they willingly shared it with others. The faith was spreading and Christian communities were being established in many, many towns, eventually reaching the very heart of the Roman empire, in Rome itself.

We have two important Christian events taking place in Tasmania at this time.

Firstly, the grandson of the famous evangelical preacher, Billy Graham, has been invited by the Christian churches of Tasmania to conduct two rallies, one in Hobart and then one in Launceston. You may have seen the television advertisements or been given a handout or spoken to by someone from one of the Christian churches. The one in Launceston is scheduled over the weekend of 27-29 May at the Silverdome.

The Catholic Church is involved, though on a small scale. I think it is important that we Catholics support the proclamation of the Gospel to the people of Tasmania. Even if the style is not exactly what we are used to, it is nonetheless a proclamation of the basic Christian message, calling people to come to personal faith in Christ. This is something we can support. I will be attending the event in Hobart.

As it turns out at the same time we are commencing our own Catholic program focussed on spreading the Gospel. It is called ‘Evangelium’, the word comes from the Greek word for Gospel, or ‘good news’. If you like we are running our own Gospel program.

As you may be aware it is being conducted through hubs right across Tasmania. We have some 150 people involved in some 20 hubs. The focus of the program will be, what I am entitling, a ‘personal journey of the heart’. Like Paul and Barnabas we will be examining not what we have done for God, but what God has done in us.

Each of us here tonight are believers because God has been active in our lives. We are, as St Paul says, “God’s work of art”. (Eph 2:10) In the Evangelium series each of us will come to know this more clearly. I believe the program will inflame our hearts and fill us with a new joy in our faith.

I invite you to participate.

Archbishop Julian Porteous

Friday, 13 May 2022

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