Editors Note: This is the fifth article 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) discussion groups.
Taking the Easter Miracle Into Our Homes
Whether they realize it or not, most married couples have dreams that they hope will come true. They want to be happy together. They may want to have children, work hard, and have great friends. Likewise, parents have dreams for their children. A good education, formation in the virtues, and personal development are often among the top priorities. But the message of Easter says that the greatest goal a married couple can have is to live in the power of the Holy Spirit and be witnesses to the gospel, first to their children and then to others—even to the “ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
Like the first believers did, we can make the miracle of Easter the central goal for our families. We may not think so, but it is still true that all of us can take the message of the resurrection into our homes. We can all see the gospel transform our marriages, form our children, and touch those around us. Let’s look at three ordinary families in the New Testament whose lives were changed as they were filled with the Spirit.
Acts 10: A Soldier’s Dream Comes True
Cornelius, a commander in the Roman army, was stationed in the port city of Caesarea. He and his family were devout and God-fearing. They embraced the Jewish law despite the fact that they were Gentiles. They prayed together regularly and they gave money to the poor. Cornelius treated the soldiers under his command with respect, and many looked up to him. But while Cornelius appeared to have a model family, God wanted to give them more.
Even though they were separated by thirty miles of coastline and were complete strangers, both Cornelius in Caesarea and Peter in Joppa felt God calling them together. So Peter began the two-day journey, and Cornelius spent the time gathering as many family members and friends as he could. When Peter arrived he began to speak about Jesus, and before he could even invite everyone to accept his message, the Holy Spirit came upon the people, and they were converted. What a surprise of the Spirit! What a gift from God!
Acts 12: Another Mary
Mary is the most popular name in the New Testament. In addition to the Blessed Virgin Mary, there is the sister of Martha, Mary Magdalene, the mother of James and Joseph, and the wife of Clopas. And there is another Mary, the mother of John Mark, the one who tradition tells us stands behind the Gospel of Mark. This Mary was also the aunt of the apostle Barnabas.
Probably a widow and probably wealthy, Mary was an influential member of the early church. She owned a home in Jerusalem, and she frequently opened her home for Eucharist celebrations and communal meals. In fact, her home may have been the primary meeting center for the Jerusalem church.
The story of Peter’s miraculous escape from prison gives us a sense of how courageous Mary was. Christians were being persecuted. James had been martyred, and Peter was in prison. But on the night before his trial, Peter was set free by an angel. Once free, Peter went to Mary’s house, where many of the believers were gathered, praying for him. Despite the obvious hazards, Mary wanted to keep the church together. She risked her status in society, her reputation, her wealth, and even her life, all for the sake of the Lord and his people.
Mary’s son, John Mark, was a great evangelist. Surely she played a significant role in his personal and spiritual development. No doubt she encouraged him to join Paul on his first missionary journey despite his young age. No doubt she supported him when he unexpectedly deserted Paul and Barnabas halfway through the journey (Acts 13:13).
Acts 18: Priscilla and Aquila
When Paul was working in Corinth, he met a couple named Priscilla and Aquila, who were tentmakers like himself. The threesome formed a business partnership. While it is unclear whether Priscilla and Aquila were already Christians prior to meeting Paul, it is likely that Paul’s witness impressed them and united them. A few years later, Priscilla and Aquila joined Paul on a missionary journey. After spending some time together in Ephesus, Paul moved on, but Priscilla and Aquila stayed back to help lead the fledgling church.
While in Ephesus, Priscilla and Aquila heard a well-educated and eloquent man named Apollos preach about Jesus. Acts tells us that while Apollos knew much about Jesus and his teaching, his knowledge was limited. For instance, he knew only about John’s baptism and not about Jesus’ promise to baptize his followers with the Holy Spirit. Priscilla and Aquila invited Apollos to come and meet them.
Though they were probably not as educated as Apollos, Priscilla and Aquila were able to share more about the “way of the Lord,” perhaps on the power of the resurrection and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, which were beyond Apollos’ limited understanding. These two tradespeople supplied the missing ingredient to Apollos’ ministry, and together they blessed and molded the church in Ephesus.
(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
- In the article, we hear these words: “Like the first believers did, we can make the miracle of Easter the central goal for our families. We may not think so, but it is still true that all of us can take the message of the resurrection into our homes.” In what ways do you do this? What additional things can you do?
- In Acts 10, the Roman centurion, Cornelius, was “devout and God-fearing. The same was true of his whole household” (Acts 10: 1). God rewarded Cornelius by pouring out his Spirit upon all those who were listening to Peter’s message of the God News of Jesus Christ. Take some time during the week to read Peter’s message in Acts 10 to your family and share your thoughts on it. What are your expectations when you do this?
- In Acts 12, we meet Mary, the godly mother of John Mark. John Mark was a frequent companion of Paul on his evangelistic journeys. How would you describe the influence a godly mother has on her sons? On her daughters? What influence did your mother have on your life?
- In Acts 18, we read of Paul’s impact on Aquila and Priscilla, a husband and wife who accompanied Paul on his journey to Ephesus. In Ephesus, they took Apollos under their wing and “explained to him the Way (of God) more accurately” (Acts 18:26). The article describes this encounter in this way: “Though they were probably not as educated as Apollos, Priscilla and Aquila were able to share more about the ‘way of the Lord,’ perhaps on the power of the resurrection and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, which were beyond Apollos’ limited understanding. These two tradespeople supplied the missing ingredient to Apollos’ ministry, and together they blessed and molded the church in Ephesus.” It is easy for us to think that we are not learned enough or spiritual enough to share the Gospel with others. We can learn from Aquila and Priscilla’s example that it is the “power of the Gospel” that change people’s hearts, not our great learning or intellect. Write down on a sheet of paper the names of three men you know who need to deepen their faith in Jesus Christ. Then look for opportunities to share with them how the Lord changed your life, and what it means to “know” Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.
- If you are in a men’s group, end your meeting by praying for one another that the Holy Spirit would give you godly courage and wisdom to reach out to others with the life-changing message of Jesus Christ.
The discussion questions were created by Maurice Blumberg (firstname.lastname@example.org), a Trustee of the National Fellowship of Catholic Men (http://www.catholicmensresources.org/), and currently the Director of Partner Relations for Partners in Evangelism, (http://www2.wau.org/partners/), a Ministry to the Military and Prisoners for The Word Among Us.