Editors Note: This is the third of a six-part series on “Experiencing the Miracle of Easter in our Lives.”. The articles also include discussion questions to allow them to be used in Easter (or post-Easter) discusssion groups.
To the Ends of the Earth
It’s amazing. No single event has affected so many individual lives over the course of so many centuries as the resurrection of Jesus from the dead nearly two thousand years ago. Think about how chaotic things were when Jesus died on Good Friday. The apostles were too busy fighting among themselves about who was the greatest to understand what Jesus meant when he said that he was going to his Father. Peter denied even knowing Jesus. And Judas went so far as to kill himself. Everything seemed so bleak. But everything changed after Jesus rose again. The apostles’ faith and hope were restored. Jesus commanded them to go and make disciples of the whole world, and they responded with passion and dedication. They were so convinced that they even stayed together in Jerusalem waiting for the Holy Spirit to come upon them—even though they didn’t really know who this “Holy Spirit” was or what he would do!
Then came Pentecost
The apostles experienced Jesus’ presence in a whole new way at Pentecost. They banded together as a church, trying to live out the call to love each other as Jesus had loved them. They studied the Hebrew Scriptures, trying to understand more fully everything they had just experienced. They prayed together and broke bread as a body, recalling the night before Jesus died. Miraculous signs and healings occurred. They were determined to evangelize as many people as possible, as well as to care for the poor, the sick, the elderly, and the needy. And as a result, “every day the Lord added to their numbers those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47).
In the months and years that followed, the word of God spread out from Jerusalem to Samaria, to Antioch, and to Caesarea—where the Holy Spirit fell on Gentiles for the first time. Apostles like Peter, Paul, and Barnabas; bishops and elders like Timothy and Silas; and evangelists and coworkers like Priscilla and Aquila were all inspired by the Holy Spirit to build up the churches and take the gospel into new territory. Jews and Gentiles alike were being touched by the Lord and accepting baptism. In short, Jesus had asked his disciples to go to the ends of the earth, and they did! Things were so active, so exciting, and so uplifting. Even in the midst of terrible persecution, their spirits were high. What was their secret? They simply did what Jesus told them to do, and they did it by relying on the power of the Holy Spirit. Their secret is our secret, and we are called to do the same.
(Joe Difato is the publisher of The Word Among Us devotional magazine. To contact him, go to his website at www.joedifato.com . Many thanks to The Word Among Us (http://www.wau.org/ ) for allowing us to use his articles from their 2009 Easter Issue. Used with permission.)
Questions for Reflection/Discussion
1. The resurrection of Jesus had a major impact on the lives of Jesus’ apostles. How would you describe this impact? How would you describe its impact on your life?
2. The article speaks these words about Pentecost: “The apostles experienced Jesus’ presence in a whole new way at Pentecost.” How would you describe this “new way”? What difference has the power of the Holy Spirit made in your life.
3. One of the impacts the Holy Spirit had on Jesus’ disciples was that "They were determined to evangelize as many people as possible, as well as to care for the poor, the sick, the elderly, and the needy. And as a result, ‘every day the Lord added to their numbers those who were being saved’ (Acts 2:47).” What about you? Are you “determined to evangelize as many people as possible”? Why or why not?
4. Even though you received the Holy Spirit in the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation, how can you open yourself to a deeper infilling of the Holy Spirit every day?
5. The article ends with these words regarding Jesus’ disciples after the resurrection and Pentecost: “Even in the midst of terrible persecution, their spirits were high. What was their secret? They simply did what Jesus told them to do, and they did it by relying on the power of the Holy Spirit. Their secret is our secret, and we are called to do the same.” What steps can you take to be more open to doing what Jesus would have you do and doing it by relying more on the power of the Holy Spirit (rather than on just your own power)?