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Reflection on the Acts of the Apostles

Recommended readings: Path Through Scripture by Fr. Mark Link (Paperback 1995--$14.50), Understanding the Bible: A Basic Introduction to Biblical Interpretation, Fr. George T. Montague, S.M.,(Paperback 1997 $15.96)  An Introduction to New Testament Christology by Fr. Raymond E. Brown. Time magazine hailed Raymond Brown as "the leading U.S. Catholic authority on the Bible."   In this accessible work written for all Bible students, Brown presents an intelligible introduction to the way Jesus was understood in His lifetime and in the lifetimes of His original followers.

   According to the New Oxford Annotated Bible, Revised Standard Version, the Book of Acts continues the narrative of Luke’s Gospel by tracing the story of the Christian movement from the resurrection of Jesus to the time when the apostle Paul was in Rome preaching the gospel unhindered. Most of the first half of Acts is occupied with the Jerusalem church and its relationships, while the latter half is dominated by Paul.

The story of the healing of the crippled man by Peter and John is a wonderful parable of the generosity of love (Acts 3:1-10). Peter and John had gone up to the temple for afternoon prayers. They chanced upon a beggar who sat at one of the huge gateways to the temple begging for alms. This man had been crippled m the day of his birth and managed to eke out a living because his friends brought him everyday to the same spot to beg.

When he saw Peter and John, he asked them for a donation. They stopped in their tracks and looked at the crippled beggar. Then Peter said: "I have neither silver nor gold, but what I have I give you! In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, walk!" Then Peter took him by the hand and pulled him up. Immediately the beggar's feet and ankles were strong and he walked and jumped for joy.

What a surprise for that crippled beggar. He got far more than he asked for. He asked for money and got health and life instead. But that's the way the love of God is and that's the way our love should be as well. Love gives more than is expected or deserved.

We have all known something of the joy that beggar felt when he was made whole. We have been on the receiving end of gifts that exceeded what we dared hope to receive. We have been gifted with acts of love beyond our imaginings. We have asked for forgiveness and been given forgetfulness as well. We have asked for acceptance and been given appreciation as well. We have asked for company and been given compassion as well. Love is like that, whether divine or human love. Love does not calculate needs but gives freely beyond what is asked.

The healing of the crippled beggar by Peter and John as described in Act 3:11-26 quickly stirred up a crowd. Everyone who went to the temple had seen the man hundreds of times. They knew that he was hopelessly crippled and doomed to spend his days in living off the generosity of others. They could hardly believe their eyes when they saw him walking and leaping and jumping for joy.

Word spread like wildfire through the temple courtyard and the whole of people rushed over to see this marvelous sight. They were speechless by what they saw. "How could these men have healed this man?" they asked excitedly. But Peter and John quickly assured them that they had nothing to do with the healing. They had not made this man whole by some power or holiness of their own. The God who raised Jesus from the dead was the power that made this man whole.

There is an important lesson in Peter and John's disavowal of their own strength and holiness. Left to ourselves, we are nothing but mere mortals. Some of us are stronger and smarter than others. But all of us are limited by our human nature. The only way we can work miracles is if we are acting in God's power. And all of us can work miracles if we let God work through us as he worked through Peter and John. We can't make beggars walk in the twinkling of an eye, but through modern medicine we can heal the sick. Through modern knowledge, we can educate the ignorant. Through modern technology, we can feed the hungry.

These are miracles of healing, teaching and productivity no less wonderful than the new lease on life given to the crippled beggar. We too can change the world if we act in God's power. GLP


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