Friday, April 13, 2012

The Miracle of Numbers

For the second time in this The Great Day of the Octave of the Resurrection of Our Lord, a passage from the Acts of the Apostles turned a light on for me, or should I say, set off an alarm in my head. This time it was the reading for Mass on today, Friday of the Octave of Easter: Acts 4:1ff.

"While Peter and John were talking to the people the priests came up to them, accompanied by the captain of the Temple and the Sadducees. They were extremely annoyed at their teaching the people the doctrine of the resurrection from the dead by proclaiming the resurrection of Jesus. They arrested them, but as it was already late, they held them till the next day. But many of those who had listened to their message became believers, the total number of whom had now risen to something like five thousand."

The total number of believers had risen to something like five thousand, the passage says. The first thousands came from Peter's preaching on Pentecost and these additional from Peter's testimony in answer to the crowd's query as to how they were to understand the healing of the crippled man at the Beautiful Gate of the Temple. No doubt the wonder of Pentecost and the miracle of healing were factors, but the explanation, the message was essential. This gives us hope concerning the potential fruitfulness of our message as proclaimed today. God's Word is like the rain, Scripture says, which brings forth fruit: seed for the sower and bread to eat; it never returns to Him void.

The content of their teaching was "the doctrine of the resurrection from the dead by proclaiming the resurrection of Jesus". The doctrine is one of hope, which inspired belief among their listeners in proportions, in numbers, I would deem inexplicable, truly miraculous. I cannot say as I find the slightest note of hysteria in all this. People listen and respond to the challenge, which is an invitation to repent and believe.

Do the results in terms of numbers of new believers in response to the apostolic preaching cast a shadow on the central event, which is Jesus' victory for the sake of the life of the world, His victory over sin and death? Obviously not! Rather the results in terms of numbers from the teaching of the apostles bear witness to the power of the Resurrection.

None of the apostles had ever studied rhetoric, at least not to my knowledge. They had substance and the Holy Spirit on their side. They proclaimed the ultimate hope, and namely that although taxes (hail the month of April!) might have the last word, death while at some point still claiming us, sinners, cannot keep us in its grasp. By His Sacred Wounds we are healed in the glory of His rising from the dead!

Хрістос воскрес! 
Воістіну воскрес!

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