The words of Peter, yet the voice of God- Monday, in the Octave of Easter- Acts 2:14, 22-33
The book of Acts primarily focuses on the growth of the Church and that is why on the first day after Easter, the lectionary takes us to Chapter two which is Pentecost Sunday. The central importance of Pentecost is the Spirit’s transformation of the Church into a community of prophets (2:18).
The context of today’s text is simple. Peter is addressing the Jews of the Diaspora who have now settled in Jerusalem. These were men, who at one time made a foreign land their home, and now having returned to Jerusalem, have carried the language of their adopted homes to Jerusalem. It is they who hear the first public proclamation that is made in Acts by Peter.
We will hear the narration that unfolds on Pentecost (Greek word of fiftieth) on its feast (fifty days from now). But for now, we will focus on a part of what Peter said on Pentecost Sunday, which is in turn a part of the Easter message for Easter and Pentecost, forming one composite unit of the Easter celebrations!
For the Jews, Pentecost was an annual agrarian pilgrimage that they celebrated fifty days after the feast of unleavened bread or Passover. One can now understand better why the apostles have gathered in Jerusalem – they, like the rest, are Pilgrims, although a bit lost without their Master. But it is in this room that the Holy Spirit descends in a rush of wind and flaming tongues of fire.
In today’s reading we hear what followed this glorious event. The coming of the Holy Spirit brings with it, the gift of tongues and an impetus to the Church to evangelize. But instead of being greeted with awe by all in Jerusalem, some “sneer”. The twelve are accused of being drunk at nine in the morning.
Peter now boldly answers them and he speaks specifically to explain why the Holy Spirit has been given to Jesus’ followers. Our text today deals with the second part of Peter’s answer. In the first part he quotes the prophet Joel 2:28-32a. In the second part, which is today’s reading, Peter explains that it was Jesus’ dying, rising, and ascending that resulted in the sending of the Spirit. It is through these events of salvation history that God established Jesus as Lord and Saviour.
Peter then goes on to quote David using three Psalms attributed to David. Today’s text has the first of the three Psalms (read the rest till verse 36). In these Psalms, David acknowledges Jesus as his superior and Peter presents David’s words as prophesy concerning Jesus. This prophesy of David is one of hope and rejoicing, that he also would not be abandoned to Hades, for God is at work through Jesus.
So what’s our take away from a very complex and theological sermon? In fact, if you give this sermon of Peter a thought, you would conclude that the first sermon ever preached in the Church was the most technical, theological and complex one, and as many would be tempted to call, “the most boring!” Yet the results were amazing, for we are told that the listeners were “cut to the heart” and three thousand repented and were converted. It is not merely the eloquence or content of the preacher but the openness of the listener that brings conversion.
At the heart of this homily given by Peter, is the acknowledgment of God’s mighty love for us. It was God who gave us Jesus, who was attested with deeds and power and wonders and signs. It was God who raised Jesus from the dead and brought us the hope that our “flesh will live forever “ (verse 26).
Fr Warner D’Souza
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