This morning Fr. Dan Griffith and I co-presented an Adult Faith Formation session on The Spirit of the Risen Christ in Acts. Fr. Dan opened our session by setting the context and talking about the opening episodes of Acts: Christ’s Ascension and the Pentecost event. I then focused on the post-Ascension mission in the early days of the church. Specifically, I addressed the several episodes that make up Acts Chapter 2 verse 14 through Chapter 3: the first cure effected by Peter (about which, more below), Peter’s first two speeches, and the description of the communal life of Jesus’ followers. Although these are descriptions of the early church, in Jerusalem, they speak very much to our lives. And so as I talked about the episodes, I suggested a number of questions for reflection.
We know that whenever sick people came to Jesus in faith, they were healed. He healed those who were spiritually sick and those who were physically ill. The early church continued to act as Christ did. As the apostles preached the gospel, they healed many people. The first of those healings is recorded in the beginning of Chapter 3 of Acts:
Now Peter and John were going up to the temple area for the three o’clock hour of prayer. And a man crippled from birth was carried and placed at the gate of the temple called “the Beautiful Gate” every day to beg for alms from the people who entered the temple. When he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked for alms. But Peter looked intently at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.” He paid attention to them, expecting to receive something from them. Peter said, “I have neither silver nor gold, but what I do have I give you: in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean, [rise and] walk.” 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. When all the people saw him walking and praising God, they recognized him as the one who used to sit begging at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, and they were filled with amazement and astonishment at what had happened to him.
Peter, who blew so many things during the life of Jesus, is confident of the power of the name of Jesus and the Spirit of God working through him. And, through the great spiritual power released through the death and resurrection of Jesus and the sending of the Spirit, the man is healed.
We have all been given the gift of the Holy Spirit. Do we walk with the confidence Peter did?
There is a short beautiful line at the end of the third chapter of Ephesians that speaks of God’s ability “to accomplish far more than all we ask or imagine, by the power at work within us.” And the equally beautiful line in the fourth chapter of Phillipians: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
Do I believe that? Does my way of being in the world reflect that belief?
But more than the actual healing, in this description of Peter’s healing of the cripple there is an incredible model for us in how we deal with those we encounter.
Peter and John, going to the temple heard the man crying out. They listened to him, letting him know he was heard.
Then Peter looked intently at him, as did John. They didn’t glance on their way, but they looked at him, letting him know he was seen.
Then Peter touched him, taking him by the right hand. I can see someone without them knowing they are seen, I can hear someone without them knowing I have heard them, but touch is always mutual. And there is such power in touch, the kind of touch that conveys comfort and compassion. (When we touch someone in pain, we don’t catch their pain from them, but we do transmit our comfort and compassion.)
Then Peter spoke to the man and said Rise up and Walk – healing him.
Most of us don’t have the power to cure illness the way Peter cured the man’s inability to walk, but we can heal their suffering by our encounter with them. And be the cause of their praising God.
Do we hear those crying out?
Do we see them – really see them – look at them?
Are we willing to touch them?