Nonviolence, Peace Spirituality

The Acts of the Apostles: Our family album

by Gerry McFlynn
Pax Christi UK

A Reflection for the 6th Sunday of Easter…

Acts 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48 | 1 John 4:7-10 | John 15:9-17

The Acts of the Apostles is the only New Testament book of which we can claim authorship. The Gospels describe the life of Jesus; they contain his Will and Testament and we are the executors of that Will.  The letters of the Apostles explain how that life should be lived.  Acts tells us how those first followers of Jesus did, in fact, live it.

It describes how they tried to make sense of the large print of his words about things like – losing one’s life in order to save it, turning the other cheek, sharing one’s goods, going the extra mile, to say nothing of loving one’s enemies!  It also gives an account of the enormous joy and hope unleashed in them.  And it is a story that has not ended, for every Christian life is a chapter in this Book – our family album!

A striking feature of the lifestyle of those first followers was their refusal to engage with militarism or any other “ism” that militated against the wellbeing of another human being.  They believed that God’s Spirit of love had been poured out on everyone.  In fact, they became known for the love they had for everyone, a love that manifested itself in their care for the poor, the weak and marginalised in society.

Acts describes a nonviolent, caring and compassionate lifestyle and shows how, even in our complicated and violent world, it is still possible to live such a life. As Easter People, we are challenged to live the same Spirit-filled life as those first followers.  We do this in another time, in a different world.  We have to do in our world NOW what those first Christians did in their world THEN.

Gerry McFlynn is a member of our Nonviolence Working Group, a priest and project manager for the Irish Council for Prisoners Overseas. You can read all of Pax Christi UK’s post-Easter Sunday reflections here. 

Peace Spirituality

Finding the spirit of the still strange, risen Lord

by David McLoughlin
Pax Christi UK

A Reflection for the 5th Sunday of Easter…

Acts 9:26-31 | 1 John 3:18-24 | John 15:1-8

Today Saul enters the picture and with him violence. The Jerusalem community are scared of him.  His recent Damascus conversion does nothing to allay their fears.  We get a more accurate insight into the internal fragility of the early community; not yet fully confidant in the abiding spirit of their, still strange, risen Lord.  Saul arrives and the kindly Barnabas mediates on his behalf.  He tells of the vision of the risen Jesus and Saul’s remarkable recent attempt at preaching Jesus, as Messiah, in Damascus.  They are wary.

Paul is young and confident with a detailed knowledge of the Hebrew scriptures which he can quote, at will, from memory.  At ease in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek he is able to argue with all-comers.  Immediately he starts wandering the city, preaching in the name of Jesus, as though he were an Apostle.  They can’t cope with him.  To make matters worse he upsets the Greek-speaking Jewish disciples, with whom he should have had more in common.  The uneasy balance of the community disintegrates as the Greeks plan to kill him. There is a disturbing upsurge of violence here that shows just how hard-won would be the more contemplative account in John’s gospel of all as members of Christ, the one vine.

They hustle Saul to the coast and put him on a boat to Tarsus, back to the family tent-making business, nearly a thousand miles away. We hear no more of him for ten years. But in those years the full significance of the Risen Lord’s ‘Why are you persecuting me?’ will become clear. Saul, as Paul, will return with his teaching of the Church, as the body of Christ, in which each one of us can find a welcoming home, and a unique role, despite our past.

David McLoughlin is a member of our Nonviolence Working Group and is senior Lecturer in Theology, Newman University, Birmingham. You can read all of Pax Christi UK’s post-Easter Sunday reflections here.