Isaiah provides us with many images of the Kingdom of God. He pictures the Lord on a mountain laying out a feast of "rich food and choice wines, juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines". Here the Lord will "destroy the veil that veils all peoples, the web that is woven over all nations" (Isaiah 25:6-8).
To me this is the veil of unbelief, the web of deceit that Satan, the father of lies and accuser of the brethren, weaves to keep people from entering the presence of the Lord. By his death, Jesus destroyed the veil that separated the people from the Holy of Holies so that all people could enter in (Luke 23:45; Hebrews 10:19-22). The presence of the Lord is not reserved for the "worthy few" because all have been made worthy by the blood of Jesus.
For reflection: How can I make more time to enjoy the feast, to drink the wine of his presence?
Let us pray. Today I enter into your presence, Lord. I drink you in.
If we look to the early church for evidence of what it means to be a disciple or follower of Jesus, we see several things. They prayed daily in the temple and elsewhere. They fellowshipped and took communion together. They lived in common or at least saw to each other's needs as they grew into a larger group. They attracted new believers through preaching, healing and miracles.
The healings and miracles served to confirm the fact that the power of Jesus, who had been crucified and was risen from the dead, was now with his disciples. Healings and miracles were not for the sake of showing power, but so that people would be drawn to listen to the gospel. After hearing the good news, people were being baptized and their sins forgiven. Lives were changing.
The gospel still has the power to change lives today if we are not afraid or reluctant to share it with other people. If coming to have a personal relationship with Jesus is the best thing that ever happened to us, why do we hesitate to tell others about him? We don't want to be pushy about it, though, as Peter says, "Always be prepared to given an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope you have. But do this with gentleness and respect" (1 Peter 3:15).
For reflection: Do I have my answer ready if someone asks me?
Let us pray. Lord Jesus, you promised to give us all that we need and to give us words when we need them. I am trusting in your promises. I need boldness, gentleness, respect and the right words.
One of the strangest stories in the New Testament is that of Ananias and Sapphira. We've already been told by Luke, the author of Acts, that the new group of believers was holding things in common (Acts 2:44-45). He mentions this again in 4:32-37 before he tells the story of Ananias and his wife Sapphira.
Ananias and Sapphira decide to sell a piece of land and give some of the money to the community (5:1-11). Where they went wrong was that they told Peter they were giving all the money to the group. They lied. Peter, with knowledge from the Holy Spirit, knew immediately that Ananias was lying. Peter questions him and tells Ananias that by lying to Peter he has lied to the whole community and to the Holy Spirit. Ananias fell dead at his feet.
Three hours later, Sapphira comes to Peter, not knowing what has happened to her husband. Peter questions her also. She too lies. She too falls dead at Peter's feet.
This is an extreme consequence, don't you think? We might say, "Well, it was just a little lie." But the truth is it was an unnecessary lie that would have harmed the community greatly. Prior to this, the community was of "one heart and one mind". The couple didn't just lie, they were trying to look better in everyone's eyes than they really were. So they weren't just dishonest about the money, they were dishonest about their very selves. And in lying to Peter they lied to the entire community and to the Holy Spirit.
It's hard enough for a married couple, just two people, to be honest with each other and hold everything in common. This group was trying to do it as a large community (thousands were beginning to believe in Jesus). It did not always go smoothly.
Satan continues to tempt us today as he did the early community. Beware the father of lies.
For reflection: Am I being honest with myself about the reasons for my actions? Who else is being hurt by what I am doing?
Let us pray. Jesus, you are the truth that sets us free. You are the giver of life. Holy Spirit, you are the giver of discernment. We need you to help us see ourselves as we truly are.
"Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved." So goes the balance of the paragraph about the everyday lives of Jesus' followers (Acts 2:43-47).
There are still Christian communities that hold some, if not all, of their goods in common. There are some who eat together every day. Of those who have tried to live in common (and I am one of them) it seems to work best in small groups. I suppose there are sociological factors at play relating to group size, how well you know each other, and trust, when groups fall apart. It didn't always work for the disciples either, as we see at the end of chapter 4 and beginning of chapter 5.
But why did the disciples do this? Had they been living from a common purse with Jesus? Had they always eaten together? We don't know. Aside from donations they received, perhaps Peter and the other fishermen sometimes went off to fish, make a little money, and take care of their families before rejoining Jesus in his journey. Maybe Jesus occasionally worked in a carpentry shop as a day laborer.
The Gospel writers did not find those day-to-day details of enough importance to take up precious space on a scroll. Yet they would be interesting to know.
For reflection: Would I be trusting enough, and giving enough, to live in common with others? Would I sell things I own in order to give to people in need? Do I treat day laborers as if they might be Jesus?
Let us pray. Father, Creator, Multiplier, all we have comes from you. All we have we owe to you.
We've completed looking at the Resurrection and post-Resurrection accounts, the Ascension and Pentecost. It's also a new month and I like to move on to a new topic. However, we are going to stay with the Acts of the Apostles for a bit to experience life with the early church.
At the end of chapter 2 we find this one paragraph which summarizes the day-to-day life of the disciples after Pentecost. If not for this paragraph we wouldn't know what "normal" life was like, because from here on Luke tells the stories of Peter and then Paul as they preached and suffered for the Gospel. Verse 42 says, "They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer." Teaching/learning, fellowship, communion and prayer marked their days. These are obviously the things they saw as immediately important. They continued to do what Jesus had done with them. He taught; he fellowshipped; he broke bread and he prayed. The things they had thought mundane when Jesus was alive, they now realized were essential. After Jesus had risen, they recognized him in the breaking of the bread. How many times had he done that with them before he died? After Jesus had risen, he explained to them again the Scriptures and how the promises and the covenant applied to him and to them. Flowing from the understanding of the Scriptures and what God had done came prayer. He spent time with them in their everyday lives in prayer and in showing them how to live in good times and in bad, in acceptance and rejection. And so they began to do as Jesus had done.
For reflection: How much of my time do I devote to the teachings of God, to fellowshipping with other believers, to communion and to prayer? How important are those things in my life? Do I need to make adjustments?
Let us pray. Jesus, you did so much for me. I do so little for you. Help me to arrange my schedule so that there is a good balance of time for your teaching, fellowshipping, communion and prayer.
I started this website and blog on May 1, 2012. I am a Catholic who has been in ministry for many years. I first developed what I would call a close relationship with Jesus in the early 1970s. Ever since then I have been praying with people for healing and other needs. It is because I have seen so many of these prayers answered that I am so bold as to offer to pray for you individually through this website and phone line.