|To the home page|
of Lector's Notes
Feast of Saints Peter and Paul, June 29, Annually (Vigil Mass)
The Historical Situation: Acts was written for Greek converts to Christianity, cosmopolitan, middle-class people who had never been Jews, who adopted the faith a couple of generations after the events described in Acts. The book's purpose was to give them some history, to help them understand how they fit into a religion that had recently emerged from roots quite foreign to them. So Acts is determined to show the logic of Christianity's shift from a sect within Judaism to a movement with world-wide ambitions. The book wants to inspire in new members a zeal to spread the faith further. Reading today's passage from early in the book, imagine yourself to be a new Christian, not yet well informed, starting at the beginning. Well, not really the beginning, because Luke assumes the reader of Acts will have already read his gospel.
So you'll notice the pattern of event-proclamation-resistance in the lives of the early Christians is familiar, because it happened to Jesus over and over in the gospel. The implication is that the readers can expect life in Christ to be the same for them.
Proclaiming it: Unfortunately, those listening to you proclaim this on a Saturday night aren't going to hear a full cycle, at least not from you. So describe the event as vividly as you can.
Concentrate on that moment after the beggar has asked Peter and John for alms, "He paid attention to them, expecting to receive something from them." Pause significantly here. Make your listeners ask "Are they going to give him something or not?" because that's what the beggar was asking himself.
Then, with emphasis, "I have neither silver nor gold, but what I do have I give you:"
Sound amazed when you say the man leaped up, and bemused when you describe him "walking and jumping and praising God" into the temple.
Paul framed the issue this way: If you think you're saved by keeping rules (Jewish rules or others) and doing good deeds, or knowing the right theological propositions, you're just trying to save yourself. This is so even if you're keeping rules from a source as excellent as God's law revealed through Moses and passed down by generations of Jews. You're not letting God save you. You're not acknowledging your sinfulness. You're insulting God by trying to pay for something that God wants to give you as a gift. You're trying to control the situation instead of letting God be in control. Salvation is a grace, and every grace is a gift. It's not something earned. We're not worthy of it and we're not supposed to be.
Paul knew the Galatians needed this lesson most convincingly, so in these early verses of his letter to them, he has two reasons for being quite autobiographical:
Of lesser importance, I'd say, but another thing you might try to convey is Paul's emphatic insistence that his authority comes from Christ. It comes not from the sanction of Cephas (Peter), whom he consulted for a mere fifteen days some three years after his revelation from Christ, nor from "any other of the Apostles," all of whom save James he did not even see.