Reading the Acts of the Apostles
with Michael Rubbelke
Director of Adult Faith Formation
 You Will Be
My Witness

THE GOSPEL REACHES
THE ENDS OF THE EARTH
 (Acts 21:15-28:31)
The end of a good story resolves the problem in the beginning. Fairy tales demonstrate this masterfully. A royal marriage sends the wicked stepmother away. True love breaks the spell of loneliness. At first glance, the Acts of the Apostles appears to break this rule. Luke seems to be catching his breath rather than finishing his story. His last verses end with Paul under house arrest in Rome:

“[Paul] remained for two full years in his lodgings. He received all who came to him, and with complete assurance and without hindrance [Paul] proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Acts 28:30-31)

There is no mention of the Church, the other apostles, or Paul’s martyrdom by beheading at the hands of the Emperor Nero. Why does Luke end his narrative this way?
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We have to remember that the Acts of the Apostles is not primarily the story of Peter, Paul, or any Christian individual or community. Rather, its central character is the Holy Spirit, Who raises up witnesses to the Risen Lord. Before His Ascension, Jesus promises that there will be “witnesses [to Jesus] in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). With Paul’s missionary journeys and his final witness in Rome, the center of the known world, Luke brings his story to its proper conclusion. The end resolves the beginning: the Spirit has sent a witness to the ends of the earth!

By choosing Paul as this final witness, Jesus fulfills another promise. After Paul is blinded by the Risen Lord on his way into Damascus, the disciple called to heal him—Ananias—receives a vision of Jesus. The Lord tells Ananias, “[T]his man is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before Gentiles, kings, and Israelites, and I will show him what he will have to suffer for my name” (Acts 9:15-16). The closing chapters of Acts show Paul carrying Christ’s name before Israelites—the Sanhedrin—as well as kings (King Agrippa) and Gentiles (Paul’s captors; the inhabitants of Malta, where he is shipwrecked; the Gentiles in Rome). The Lord chooses the most unlikely enemy to be his privileged witness, and Paul responds with all he has, including his life, in the fulfillment of this promise.
In these final chapters, Paul himself reflects on the meaning of witnessing to Jesus. Twice, Paul describes in his own words what we read about in Acts 9 (Acts 22:3-16; 26:4-23). Paul describes that encounter on the way to Damascus, experiencing the Lord’s call to “be his witness before all to what you have seen and heard” (Acts 22:15; 26:16). We also encounter something we had not read in Acts 9. Paul describes how the Lord Himself directs his mission in Jerusalem, “send[ing him] far away to the Gentiles” (Acts 22:21). The entire course of Paul’s mission can be found in this graced beginning, and his recounting of that first encounter is itself a moment of grace.

This rings true to our experience. When we encounter the Lord in life-changing ways, we receive much more than we can formulate. This happens primordially in our Baptism and Confirmation, but it also occurs in a call to marriage, to religious life, to a particular job, or to a place to live. These beginnings contain grace which directs our lives in a particular, specific direction. The details cannot be known in advance, but the whole journey unfolds from these encounters like plants from seeds.

Like Paul, our moments of profound conversion and vocation are never “once and done.” Rather, they are encounters with the Lord which continually refresh, sustain, and challenge us. Returning to these moments of grace in prayer—and especially in our witness to others—allows us to share the Gospel effectively, to grow in trust and love with the Lord Who guides us, and to be filled with gratitude for his love, particularly when we feel lost and unfree.
As we end our meditation on Acts, let us return to the grace of our beginnings, both as a Church and personally. Let us recall the ways in which the Lord lovingly calls, sustains, and directs us. Let us also ask for the grace—like Paul—to be faithful to this grace by sharing it with others. May the Lord make us His witnesses to all whom we encounter!
Pray


Loving God,
we thank You for all the ways in which You encounter and call us.

Give us the grace to return to Your first call, to be Your faithful witnesses in all our life situations,
and to grow in the ways
You Desire, bringing
Your Gospel to all.


Through Christ our Lord.

Amen.

Reflect
When have you experienced a profound encounter with the Lord? How has this encounter sustained you in your faith life? How can you share this with others?

When have you experienced the Lord’s call? How has He sustained you in living out this call?
Act

When we recall the gifts of the Lord’s encounter and call, new graces sustain us! Share your reflections above with a friend or family member, paying attention to what new insights and enthusiasm the Lord shares with you.

Take nos. 119-121 of Pope Francis’ Evangelii Gaudium as your spiritual reading this week. Notice how you experience the Lord calling you to grow as a disciple and as an evangelizer.
Happy New
Liturgical Year!

We may be closing out our Year of Evangelization by meditating on the Acts of the Apostles, but we are gearing up for a new year of Faith Formation offerings!

2020-2021 will be the "Year of Prayer" at Saint Pius X. We will be offering weekly video reflections on prayer, including different ways to pray, common Catholic prayers, and important saints. We will also be offering a "Prayer Challenge" to every member of the parish so that we can all grow deeper in our relationship with the Lord.

Our first Adult Faith Formation offering for the "Year of Prayer" will be a book study on Fr. Walter Ciszek's  He Leadeth Me . Fr. Ciszek's experience of prayer and spiritual growth in a Soviet labor camp has some important lessons to teach us in this time of isolation and uncertainty. This series will begin in late August: contact Michael Rubbelke for more information, mrubbelke@stpius.net.
MAINTENANCE HELP NEEDED AT SPX!

Part-time night shifts available, some weekends.  For more information and to apply, contact Mark Wilcox, Director of Facilities, mwilcox@stpius.net, 574-272-8462.

Saint Pius X Catholic Parish, dedicated to renewing all things in Christ, is committed to evangelization through prayer, service, sacrificial giving, faith formation, and community.
Saint Pius X Catholic Church | 574.272.8462 | kmauch@stpius.net | StPius.net