In the beginning

Column: Spirit of early church gives life to it still

Father Mike Stubbs is the pastor of Holy Cross Parish in Overland Park and has a degree in Scripture from Harvard University.

Father Mike Stubbs is the pastor of Holy Cross Parish in Overland Park and has a degree in Scripture from Harvard University.

by Father Mike Stubbs

What miracle have you witnessed lately? Have you watched the sun set, gazed upon the face of a newborn infant, heard the birds sing early in the morning?

Miracles are happening all around us. Usually, though, we reserve that term for some dramatic exhibition of God’s power. In the Gospels, Jesus healed lepers, gave sight to the blind, made the deaf hear. These were all miracles of God’s compassion. The Acts of the Apostles reports that these miracles continued in the early church. The same Spirit that had raised Jesus from the dead descended upon the disciples on the day of Pentecost. The Spirit was at work among them: “Awe came upon everyone, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles” (Acts 2:43).

The first miracle in the early church to receive a thorough description involves a man crippled from birth: “Then Peter took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles grew strong. He leaped up, stood, and walked around, and went into the temple with them, walking and jumping and praising God” (Acts 3: 7-8).

This miracle becomes the focus of attention in Sunday’s first reading, Acts 4:8-12. News concerning it has reached the authorities and they are greatly disturbed. Consequently, Peter is hauled before them for interroga- tion. He responds:

“If we are being examined today about a good deed done to a cripple, namely, by what means he was saved, then all of you and all the people of Israel should know that it was in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead; in his name this man stands before you healed.”

It is significant that the miracle that Peter worked to testify to the power of the risen Christ should involve lifting up a man to enable him to stand on his own two feet. In his own way, the raising up of the cripple echoes the raising up of Jesus from the dead. God could have chosen some other miracle: healing a leper, or giving sight to a blind person.

But this particular miracle makes the point very clearly: The Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead is continuing to work in the church. As the second preface for the Easter season puts it: “In his rising the life of all has risen.”

Two thousand years later, we believe that the same Spirit is still continuing to work among us. It is the Spirit which gives life and vitality to the church. It is the Spirit that enables us to be the body of Christ, and not a dead corpse.

About the author

Fr. Mike Stubbs

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