Peter and the Power of the Holy Spirit

As is always the case in the days following Easter, the first reading for our Masses this week have been taken from the Acts of the Apostles. What is so powerful for me in hearing those readings proclaimed is the picture of Peter we see in Acts, contrasted with the Peter we remember from the Gospels.

Poor Peter made so many mistakes during the life of Christ. He tries to discourage Jesus from turning toward Jerusalem and his destiny, he loses faith when Jesus commands him to walk to him on the water, and (despite his protestations that he would go to the death with Jesus) he denies knowing Jesus three times following Jesus’ arrest. No matter how much time he spends with Jesus, he never quite seems to get it.

The post-Resurrection Peter we have been hearing about these past days is a very different person. One day we hear that Peter speaks and people are “cut to the heart”; thousands who hear him are baptized. The next day he cures a man crippled from birth. In subsequent readings, filled with the Holy Spirit, he continues to preach to great effect.

And there is the key: “filled with the Holy Spirit.” Following the ascension of Christ, we are told that when the disciples were all in one place together, “there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each of them. And they were all filled with the holy Spirit.” Not by his own power does Peter do these things, but by the power of God working through him.

What we need to remember is that the same Holy Spirit that filled the disciples also fills us, enabling us to do so much more than we could do on our own. When we actually realize that, the only response is that given in Ephesians: “Now to him who is able to accomplish far more than all we ask or imagine, by the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus tgo all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”

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