(Acts 5: 12-20)
In today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles, St. Luke the Evangelist gives us some very interesting information on the life of early Christians in Jerusalem. After Pentecost, the number of Christians had reached five thousand. This happened even with the continued persecution by the Jewish rulers (who had already crucified Christ), coming out against the Apostles. Despite this, the growth of the Christian community was constant!
In the beginning, Christians used to come together at one of the wings of the temple in Jerusalem, popularly called “Solomon’s Porch.” There they would pray and listen to the Apostles speak. What is interesting is the fact that those Jews who were not Christians did not mind their presence in the temple. On the contrary, these simple people were positively impressed by the Christians and their good behavior, even asking for baptism. Thus,“believers were increasingly added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women, and becoming members of the Church” (see verse 14).
The many miracles that the Lord was doing through His Apostles was a factor in the increasing membership of the Church. What Christ Himself did during His years of public ministry continued even after His Ascension to Heaven. The difference being that it was “through the hands of the Apostles” (verse 12). What amazes further is that some of these miracles were greater than the miracles done by Our Lord Himself in the Holy Gospels. Let no one be scandalized by this! The Lord had said to His Disciples that it would be so: “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do.” (John 14:12-13).
What then are these “greater works” which were being done through the Apostles? When word had reached the cities and villages around Jerusalem that the Disciples of Jesus were healing people (even those with serious diseases), it attracted crowds who were bringing the sick on stretchers and laying them on the streets that they knew the Apostles were going to pass by on. Why did they do this? “So that when Peter was going to pass by the crowd of the people at least his shadow might fall on some of the sick so that they may be healed” (see verse 15). People were bringing even “those who were tormented by unclean spirits” to the Apostles and “they were all healed.” (verse 16).
All of these wonderful events inspired the sick and those around them to believe in Christ. Additionally, it was encouraging for the Apostles, and it helped them bravely face the persecutions, first from the Jewish rulers and then later from the pagans. As a result, the Apostles continued to preach the Gospel of Christ boldly. Later, St. Luke talks about the anger of the Jewish leadership, who lamented the increasing number of Christians. They again arrested the Apostles and put them in prison. However, at night “an Angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and said to them: Go, stand in the temple and preach to the people the message of this new life”; to which they complied: “they entered the temple early in the morning and taught with no fear whatsoever.” (see verse 19-21).
My brothers and sisters, from what we heard today from the Acts of the Apostles, let us focus on two points in particular:
Firstly, that our Benevolent Lord Jesus Christ, even after His Ascension, continued to bless and heal the people of whatever ailed them. This saving work was done through His Apostles, and it continues through their heirs: The Bishops and Priests of His Church. All we need to do is come with the same wholehearted faith of those people who sought even the shadow of St. Peter.
Secondly, when we consistently live and act as Christians in harmony with God’s will, than we have nothing to be afraid of in the reactions of those against the faith. Christ, who is Almighty, will continue to work in our lives. He will protect us, sometimes even with miracles, as He protected His Apostles when the Angel freed them from prison. All we need to do is to never lose our daily communion with Christ.