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

(Acts 6:1-9:30)
Blessed Basil Moreau gave the Congregation of Holy Cross a striking motto: “Hail, the cross: our only hope!” These words are deeply hopeful. When we unite our failures to the cross of Christ, we can bear fruit. The early Church Father, Tertullian, applied this insight as a law of Christ’s Body: “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.” Witnessing to Christ in the Church requires our vision of success and failure to be shaped by the cross.
Our readings for this week (Acts 6:1-9:30) show how this law of the cross operated in the earliest Church. Though Acts 1-5 present the Christian community in glowing terms, these chapters show the community encountering two difficult problems.

  • First, we see a division in the community which had been totally united “in one heart and one mind” (Acts 4:32; cf. Acts 2:42-47; 6:7). The Greek-speaking believers in Jesus complain that the Aramaic-speaking believers are not including their widows—their neediest—in the common distribution of goods (Acts 6:1-6). Though all recognized themselves as Jews and subjects of the Lord Jesus, not everyone was being treated as an equally valued member of Christ’s Body.
  • Second, we see the spread of the Gospel in Jerusalem come to a screeching halt. The Church’s evangelization had seemed unstoppable; even the priests who had persecuted the Apostles were being baptized (Acts 6:7). With the murder of Stephen, the first martyr, and Saul’s persecutions, the Church in Jerusalem goes underground (Acts 8:1, 3).
These calamities would make me wonder, “Where is Jesus in this?” The answer is: He is present in your suffering . This is why Luke artfully draws parallels between Stephen’s martyrdom and Christ’s passion. This is why our Lord identifies Himself to Saul as “Jesus, whom you are persecuting” (Acts 9:5).
The early Church found that suffering was part of Christian life, but they also found Jesus was with them in and through that suffering. The same holds true for us today - letting Christ be present in and through our words and actions means that we share everything with Christ, even the cross. The suffering of the cross is difficult, but it opens new space for God to act.
The disasters of Acts 6-9 allow the risen Christ to be present through the Church in new ways.
  • The community division over widows allows the Spirit to guide the Church to a new institution of service which continues today: the diaconate. Within the Greek-speaking community, seven men are chosen to care for the widows. Two of them, Stephen and Philip, begin to share the Gospel in power.
  • Stephen’s martyrdom pauses the mission to Jerusalem, but it sends forth disciples outside Jerusalem. Philip shares the Gospel successfully with Israel’s mortal enemies—the Samaritans—and with a traveling Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:4-8, 26-40). No longer is the Church on mission only to Jews in Jerusalem through the Apostles: Stephen’s martyrdom sends the Church’s members on mission into the broader world.
  • Finally, Saul’s hostilities result in the most miraculous thing of all: his conversion and his commissioning as a witness by Christ. Never before had God chosen and sent a former enemy to do this work. By the grace of Christ’s cross, the persecutor Saul becomes Saint Paul, the witness to those outside Israel, the Gentiles. Fittingly, Saint Paul refuses to “boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Galatians 6:14).

Stephen, Paul, Tertullian, and Blessed Basil Moreau invite us to view our lives differently. We no longer have to worry about failing. Rather, everything in our lives, no matter how painful, can be united to Christ and used for His good purposes. We may suffer, but we do not suffer in vain, nor do we suffer alone. In that suffering, Christ is truly present. Let us pray for the grace to be a people of Christ’s cross, people “with hope to bring” ( Constitutions of the Congregation of Holy Cross , 8:118).  
Heavenly Father,
Help us to see our successes and failures with Your eyes.

Give us the grace to believe that
there is no failure Your love cannot reverse, no humiliation You cannot exchange for blessing,

No routine You cannot transfigure.

With the cross as our only hope,
let Your Spirit guide all to You,
through Christ, our Lord.

When have you encountered failure? How did the Lord use that to act in your life?

Are you afraid of the cross? Where is fear stronger than hope in your life?

Do you have “hope to bring” to others? How do you share your hope?

Reflect on someone who is a model of Christian hope for you. How do they show their hope and inspire you to be more hopeful? Give thanks to God for their witness, and choose one way to imitate their hope this week.

The suffering are those who most need hope. Take ten minutes to pray for the people in your life who are suffering. Find one concrete way to bring hope to someone who is suffering this week.

Take Chapter 8 of the Constitutions of Holy Cross as your spiritual reading. Reflect on how the Lord is inviting you to embrace your cross with Him.
with Fr. Bill
and Sally

Click the link below to access the weekly parish bulletin. And, check out the Bible study video with Fr. Bill and Sally Flask, Assistant Director of Liturgy. Finally, the COVID prayer can be found below the video.

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 | |