Presenter: Fr. Antonio O. Moreno
Opening Prayer: Psalm 2 – A Royal Coronation
Acts of the Apostles: The Prologue (Acts 1:11)
This opening section of Acts is a transition to a new stage in the story of Jesus, a transition wherein St. Luke does not provide new material but rather reworks and elaborates a part of the story already told (The Gospel of St. Luke).
The point of the prologue of St. Luke’s Acts is to inspire Christians to experience a spiritual transformation and empowerment in the name of Jesus.
Acts 1:1 St. Luke begins Acts as he began his Gospel, with a foreword to his patron
“In my first account”: St. Luke is the author of both his “first account” – the Gospel of St. Luke and Act of the Apostles.
“Theophilus…”: Theophilus is St. Luke’s intended reader, a patron who is already instructed in the “matters brought to fulfillment among us.” The name Theophilus is a Greek name that means friend of God or beloved of God (Theo = God, Philus= friend of beloved).
“I dealt with all that Jesus did and taught”: The first account (Gospel) is about what Jesus said and did before being taken up into heaven in the sight of his followers:
1. The teaching and actions of Jesus in his ministry
2. The selection of the Apostles through the Holy Spirit
3. Jesus’ suffering/showed them in convincing ways he was alive
4. Jesus’ resurrection and appearances/over the course of forty days and speaking to them about the reign of God
5. His commission of them as witnesses from Jerusalem to the nations
6. The promise that the apostles would be baptized with the Holy Spirit
7. His ascent into heaven
8. Promise that Jesus will return
“Until the day he was taken up to heaven”: The ascension forms the hinge between the two volumes (Gospel and Acts). It distinguishes the ministry of Jesus and that carried out by his apostles (witnesses).
“having first instructed the apostles he had chosen through the Holy Spirit”: Jesus and the community’s activities are directed by the Holy Spirit.
“In the time after his suffering he showed them in many convincing way that he was alive…” St. Luke is emphasizing that it was not visions of Christ that the apostles and disciples saw after the Crucifixion, but unmistakable appearances of the living Lord himself. Forty days: Here St. Luke says that on various occasions during approximately six weeks after the Resurrection the disciples received further teaching from Jesus. The number “forty” would recall the “forty days” during which Moses was said to have received divine instruction on Mount Sinai. Forty years that Israel wandered in the desert. Forty days that Jesus spent in the desert. Forty day/nights Noah and his family spent in the arc. Forty means a long time.
“… Speaking to them about the reign of God.” The rule of God/Kingdom of God on earth, beginning with Jesus’ own ministry, had been the main theme of the Gospel. This had been the Good News which the disciples were now to proclaim to the wider world. St. Luke implies here that the disciples had to be taught the full meaning of the coming of the “kingdom of God” through Jesus in the light of his death and Resurrection. The period between the Resurrection and the Ascension is thus the point at which, under divine guidance, the missionaries of the Church received clarification of many things that still puzzled them, and were taught to see how the life, death, and Resurrection of Jesus were in accordance with the Scriptures, and together constituted God’s mightiest act for the salvation of the world.
“…he told them not to leave Jerusalem…” For St. Luke, Jerusalem is supremely important as the center of Israel’s faith and the place of the Lord’s Passion. Now it is also to be the place where the Holy Spirit is given to the Church, in the power of which the Good News will be carried from the Holy City of Rome, the heart of the pagan world. Thus the Apostles must not leave Jerusalem before Pentecost, “for out of Zion shall go forth the law and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem” (Isa. 2:3).
“…within a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit…” John the Baptist’s mission had included baptism by immersion in the Jordan as an outward sign of the inward cleansing power of God’s forgiveness for the penitent sinner. Some of the apostles had been baptized by John (Jn. 1:35), but full rebirth in the Christian sense involves baptism both by water and by the Holy Spirit (Jn. 3:5). This complementary gift of the Holy Spirit could not be given to the Apostles until after Christ’s Ascension. The Lord would send from heaven the power they need
“Lord, are you going to restore the rule of Israel now?” At issue in this question is the legitimacy of Jesus’ claim to be Messiah as well as the Gentiles’ assurance of being part of God’s people. The Kingdom of God is not a territory or political realm. It is the rule of God over human hearts. It is initiated in the prophetic work of Jesus, not only in exorcisms and healings, but alone all in the “healing of the people”…the call of the outcast into fellowship. Jesus enthroned as King-Messiah pours out the Holy Spirit on his apostolic successors through whom his rule will be exercised over the people. The Kingdom of Israel will mean for St. Luke and the Church, therefore, the restoration of Israel as a people of God. This restoration will take place through the witnessing activity of the Apostles after they receive ‘power from the Holy Spirit.
“His answer was: ‘The exact time it is not yours to know.” Jesus’ reply, in keeping with his words in Mk 13:32, turns their thoughts away both from any nationalist conception of the Kingdom and from any expectation of any immediate realization of God’s total purpose. It is for God himself to set the time for its fulfillment. Meantime the task of the Christ’s disciples is to work for the finial triumph of God’s rule on earth, not merely in Israel, by the mission of the Church.
“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes down on you…” not by their own strength, but only by the Supernatural power of the Holy Spirit which was shortly to be given to them, could this mission of preaching the Gospel and healing the sick be accomplished. The disciples were to witness to Christ-that is, to tell what they themselves had seen and heard-beginning in Jerusalem, whose inhabitants knew Jesus as the prophet from Nazareth but not Jesus as the Christ of God. From there the message was to be carried through Judaea and Samaria as far as civilization extended (Is.49:6).