by Father Mike Stubbs
How many times have we heard the same readings at Mass? It seems hundreds of times. We could easily take them for granted and assume that we know everything that is going on in them, that there is nothing more for us to learn.
In Sunday’s first reading — Acts 10:34a, 37-43 — Peter addresses that issue. He begins by saying, “You know what has happened all over Judea.” Peter builds on the knowledge about Jesus that his listeners already have. He goes on to add to that knowledge and to explain the meaning of these important events.
The crowd may have heard about those events, but Peter and his companions have witnessed them. That is the important difference that Peter has to bring to the table.
The word “witness” appears three times in our reading. The frequency of the word emphasizes the importance of the concept. Throughout the book of the Acts of the Apostles, the theme of witnessing figures prominently.
The book of the Acts of the Apostles focuses on the witness of Peter and Paul. They are the two apostles mentioned in the title of the book. Jewish law required the testimony of two witnesses in order to prove a point in court. In a sense, Peter and Paul are acting in that capacity in the court of public opinion.
In his speech, Peter refers specifically to his experience of the risen Christ: “This man God raised on the third day and granted that he be visible, not to all the people, but to us, the witnesses chosen by God in advance, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.” Years later, in his vision on the road to Damascus, Paul will also see the risen Christ.
This experience of the risen Christ was necessary to qualify a person to be an apostle. When choosing a replacement for Judas Iscariot, Peter brought attention to this requirement: “Therefore, it is necessary that one of the men who accompanied us the whole time the Lord Jesus came and went among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day on which he was taken up from us, become with us a witness to his resurrection” (Acts 1: 21-22).
We may not claim to have seen the risen Christ with our physical eyes. Nonetheless, we have seen him with the eyes of faith. Through the Eucharist, we also have eaten and drunk with him. In that sense, we can continue the witness of Peter and Paul, and the other apostles.