St. Peter's Square
Wednesday, 29 May 2019
Catechesis on the Acts of the Apostles: 1. He showed himself to them alive ... and ordered them ... to await the fulfillment of the Father's promise "(Acts 1: 4,4).
Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!
Today we begin a course of catechesis through the Book of the Acts of the Apostles. This biblical book, written by St. Luke the Evangelist, tells us about the journey - a journey: but which journey? Of the journey of the Gospel in the world and shows us the marvelous union between the Word of God and the Holy Spirit that inaugurates the time of evangelization. The protagonists of the Acts are just a lively and effective "couple": the Word and the Spirit.
God "sends his message on earth" and "his word runs fast" - says the Psalm (147.4). The Word of God runs, it is dynamic, it irrigates every ground on which it falls. And what is his strength? St. Luke tells us that the human word becomes effective not thanks to rhetoric, which is the art of good talk, but thanks to the Holy Spirit, which is the dýnamis of God, the dynamic of God, his strength, which has the power to purify the word, to make it the bearer of life. For example, in the Bible there are stories, human words; but what is the difference between the Bible and a history book? That the words of the Bible are taken by the Holy Spirit who gives a very great strength, a different strength and helps us to make that word a seed of holiness, a seed of life, to be effective. When the Spirit visits the human word it becomes dynamic, like "dynamite", that is able to light hearts and blow up patterns, resistances and walls of division, opening up new ways and expanding the boundaries of God's people. And we will see this in the course of these catecheses, in the book of the Acts of the Apostles.
The one who gives vibrant sonority and incisiveness to our fragile human word, even capable of lying and escaping from its responsibilities, is only the Holy Spirit, through whom the Son of God was generated; the Spirit who anointed him and sustained him in the mission; the Spirit through which he chose his apostles and who guaranteed perseverance and fruitfulness to their proclamation, as he also guarantees them today in our announcement.
The Gospel ends with the resurrection and ascension of Jesus, and the narrative plot of the Acts of the Apostles starts right here, from the overabundance of the life of the Risen One transfused into his Church. Saint Luke tells us that Jesus "showed himself ... alive, after his passion, with many trials, during forty days, appearing ... and speaking of things concerning the kingdom of God" (Acts 1: 3). The Risen Christ, the Risen Jesus, makes very human gestures, like sharing a meal with his own, and invites them to trustingly await the fulfillment of the Father's promise: "you will be baptized in the Holy Spirit" (Acts 1: 5).
The baptism in the Holy Spirit, in fact, is the experience that allows us to enter into a personal communion with God and to participate in his universal salvific will, acquiring the gift of parresia, courage, that is the ability to utter a word "from children of God ", not only from men, but from children of God: a clear word, free, effective, full of love for Christ and for the brothers.
There is therefore no struggle to earn or merit the gift of God. Everything is given for free and in due time. The Lord gives everything for free. Salvation cannot be bought, it is not paid: it is a free gift. Faced with the anxiety of knowing in advance the time in which the events announced by Him will happen, Jesus answers his own: "It is not up to you to know times or moments that the Father has reserved for his power, but you will receive the strength from the Holy Spirit who will come down on you, and on me you will be witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth "(Acts 1,7-8).
The Risen One invites his own people not to live the present with anxiety, but to make an alliance with time, to know how to wait for the unraveling of a sacred history that has not been interrupted but is advancing, it always goes on; to know how to wait for the "steps" of God, the Lord of time and space. The Risen One invites his people not to "manufacture" the mission by themselves, but to wait for the Father to energize their hearts with his Spirit, to be able to get involved in a missionary witness capable of radiating from Jerusalem to Samaria and to go beyond the borders of Israel to reach the outskirts of the world.
This expectation, the Apostles live it together, they live it as the family of the Lord, in the upper room or cenacle, whose walls are still witnesses of the gift with which Jesus consigned himself to his own in the Eucharist. And how await the strength, the dýnamis of God? Praying with perseverance, as if there were not so many but one. Praying in unity and with perseverance. In fact, it is through prayer that one overcomes loneliness, temptation, suspicion and opens one's heart to communion. The presence of women and of Mary, the mother of Jesus, intensifies this experience: they first learned from the Master to witness to the fidelity of love and the strength of communion that overcomes all fear.
We also ask the Lord for patience in waiting for his steps, for not wanting to "manufacture" us his work and to remain docile by praying, invoking the Spirit and cultivating the art of ecclesial communion.
Greetings in Various Languages: