Photo: Svenwerk, “Spinning Top” – Staircase at Vatican Museums, Rome.
Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/PzaJtw
RESTROOMS AND GENERATIONS OF FAITH
Several weeks ago, we included in our weekly email drawings of the three proposed restrooms for our church. One will replace the existing unit off the Sacristy and the others will be in the former Baptistry. As you saw, they will be spacious, modern and fulfill all codes and regulations. To answer one question we received, several members of the team have or have had young children. Therefore, not only are there changing tables, but with the restrooms in the old Baptistry you can change an infant and watch a toddler at the same time.
Since then we have been given an expense projection. If everything goes wrong, it will cost about $200,000. Our plan is to pay for it from the redeemed pledges of Generations of Faith.
Those who were members of the Parish at the time will remember that this was a major fund-raising effort in our Diocese. The money collected was divided: 50% for capital improvements in the Parish, 40% for the care of retired and infirmed priests and 10% for developing youth ministry.
Members of the Parish pledged $539,128. We have so far collected $344,621. The parish share of this is $160,939 as of March 31. At this rate of return we will collect $437,778 of which the parish will receive $235,564. Please note, however, that if everything was collected, the parish would receive $336,914.
We will also include the $3,600.00 we received by going over goal with the annual appeal.
The papers are being completed and filed for this work and the items have been ordered. We hope for completion in early Autumn, about the same time as the exterior of the church. If you are not current with redeeming your pledge, please do so as soon as you can. If you are current, please think about sending in your next installment early. We are not asking for anyone to give anything more than he or she has pledged. It would be wonderful if we could pay this off exclusively from these funds.
Fifth Sunday of Easter
May 19, 2019
The section we read today from the Acts of the Apostles connects the completion of the first missionary journey of Paul and Barnabas, which we examined last week, with the important Council of Jerusalem, which we will explore next week. In the hands of a lesser author this could be an exercise in place setting, but Luke uses it able reveal important aspects of our faith. For me, this week was especially pertinent. Spoiler alert: Baby boomers, pay attention.
Last week we saw Paul and Barnabas arrive at Iconium. They spoke in the synagogue and were well received and “a great number of both Jews and Greeks came to believe” (Acts 14:1) This enraged the synagogue leaders who “poisoned the minds of the Gentiles against the brothers”. (Acts 14:2) The Apostles, however, were not driven away and “they stayed for a considerable period, speaking out boldly for the Lord, who confirmed the word about his grace by granting signs and wonders to occur through their hands.” (Acts 14:3) . The death threats became so great, however, that they went to the Lystra. They were successful, but eventually some of their previous enemies from Antioch and Iconium worked on the crowds, who stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead. (Acts 14:19).
This is where we take up the story today. First, note that Paul is receiving the same treatment from others that he demonstrated himself. He followed the disciples of Jesus to persecute them. Now others have done the same with him. The people – Jews and Gentles – in the cities who hear the Gospel are immediately drawn to it but those with vested interests in keeping the old order in the old way are threatened and seek to destroy it. Paul has been replaced.
Now look at what Paul and Barnabas do:
21 After they had proclaimed the good news to that city and made a considerable number of disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch. Acts 14:21
Without the interference of outside agitators. they make a considerable number of disciples but then return to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch. They were persecuted -indeed almost killed – in these places, yet they return. This is not mere bravado but a pastoral necessity. These were new Christians and they needed to be strengthened. This is common Christian practice. Jesus tells Peter before Peter betrays him
31 “Simon, Simon, behold Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat,
32 but I have prayed that your own faith may not fail; and once you have turned back, you must strengthen your brothers.” Luke 22:31–32
This occurred many times in Acts as well, most intriguingly with Barnabas himself. He was sent by the church in Jerusalem to see what was occurring in Antioch.
23 When he came and saw the grace of God, he rejoiced, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast devotion (Acts 13:23)
After this, Barnabas realized that he was not the best equipped to lead this mission and went to Tarsis to bring Saul to help him in this task.
This exhortation was not however optimistic with pleasant nosegays.
22 They strengthened the spirits of the disciples and exhorted them to persevere in the faith, saying, “It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.” (Acts 14:22)
This is common Christian teaching: Jesus tells the disciples on the Road to Emmaus
Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory? (Luke 24)
And he tells Ananias about Paul:
16 I myself will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name (Acts 9:16)
Although suffering for the good of the community may be found in the Old Testament, especially in the “suffering servant” songs in Isaiah that we have looked at many times, it was – if not quite an aberration – something which they thought would be eliminated with the Messiah. We all need to be reminded that this is not the case. As we have seen, Saul the tormentor of the Church was immediately replaced. It shall ever be, and we must be aware of the consequences of our baptisms.
The strengthening of the disciples was not only by exhortation, but by institutionalization.
23 They appointed presbyters for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, commended them to the Lord in whom they had put their faith. Acts 14:23 (NAB)
Presbyter means elder, and it combines many roles that we would see as separate today from the person who presides at the Eucharist to the chief Catechist. There are two points of interest here.
First that there is a structure. The Acts of the Apostles has been called the Gospel of the Holy Spirit. For Luke, nothing will prosper that is not directed and sustained by the Spirit. This includes the institutional structures that will maintain the proper functioning of the community.
Thus, there is “Prayer and Fasting’ to choose the right person. This has a wonderful pedigree:
12 Now during those days he went out to the mountain to pray; and he spent the night in prayer to God. 13 And when day came, he called his disciples and chose twelve of them, whom he also named apostles (Luke 6:12)
And also, in the earlier chapter of Acts
Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3 Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off. Acts 13:3
The church is an earthly institution, and will either be a successful one or will fail like any other. She is also the body of Christ, and if she is to fulfill her responsibility to be the presence of Jesus in the world her leaders must be chosen by the Spirit, not merely emerge.
This is very personal and pertinent to me. This week I preached at my 50th High School graduation reunion from Cathedral Prep Seminary. We all entered 54 years ago to discern if we had a religious vocation. We assumed that this meant Priesthood. Most discovered that they did not have a call to the ordained ministry. Yet looking over the lives of my classmates, many had truly religious vocations. They built up their parishes, became involved in many ministries and were true presences of Jesus. Many of you have done the same in too many ways to count.
Yet I would like to speak with one group in particular: Baby Boomers. We who were born between 1946 and 1964. I think we have a particular insight into this week’s reading and indeed our world. We lived through the Vietnam War and Watergate, we saw most of the institutions around us fail and may have abandoned them. Yet we now know that we cannot live without them and may find some of them threatened. We know what to accept and what to reject. Younger people have not experienced this and do not. We have a great opportunity for ministry, for – although I hate to admit it – we are the elders of the community: civil and religious. Let us prove ourselves worthy of our wrinkles and creaking bones, but most of all the trust that Jesus places in us.