Whenever the Church calls us to reflect on the passage from Acts that is our first reading, I’m always grateful for its encouragement. Sure, it doesn’t say much about the promises of heaven, not does it eloquently restate the Christian mystery. However, there are three concrete areas where I sense the Lord’s peace as I read the passage.
First, I’m encouraged by how the passage starts. No, not the line about the church growing, rather the mention of the dispute. Some days my spirit is heavily burdened by the tensions within the Church and even divisions in Christianity, but there is a peace that I find in taking off my nostalgic glasses and realizing that issues have been present since the beginning. My heart still aches when I think of our divisions and disputes. But it longs for a unity we have yet to see instead of being burdened by the thought that we lost something we once had, and that, for some reason, seems easier to respond to, especially as we approach the second source of encouragement.
In response to the dispute, a solution is offered, and so the essential role of service (diakonia) is affirmed. A dispute was solved. Our issues in the church today, old as they may be, can also find solutions. That is good news! The even better news that I see speaks to me on a personal level. The Apostles and the community agreed (that is a cool thought) that not every believer has to be all things to all people. I don’t have to be crushed by the burden of doing everything and neither do you. We can specialize, assuming we don’t box ourselves in and we support, encourage, pray for, and praise those who serve differently. Imagine the freedom the Apostles felt as they blessed the work of the seven deacons knowing the widows would be fed, the Word would be proclaimed, and the Church would still gather for their communal prayer (the liturgy).
The fruit of that freedom was evident in the growth of the Church. As the early Church proclaimed the Gospel, gathered to worship the Lord through the breaking of the bread, and served those in need, her true face was shown and Acts tells us that, “The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased greatly.” Not just names on a registry, but disciples. This gives me peace as well. This tells me that if we stick to the three essentials of the Church — our three practical implications — then the Lord will find fertile ground for disciples. Everything else is filler and fluff if inquirers and seekers aren’t becoming disciples.
May the God who is three and one, help us find peace and unity through the Holy Spirit. May we humbly acknowledge that only Christ is all things to all people, and we are called to let him shine through us. Knowing the face of the Lord, may we share the truth of His great love, reveal his goodness though our actions, and discover His beauty in our worship.