We continue to celebrate Easter as the resurrected Lord remains by our side. The present-day quarantine may restrict our communal gatherings yet we, as a church, “step out” creatively and share faith, hope and love we have in our Lord, Jesus Christ. God is not bound by physical space, and neither are we as fearless, fruitful and fervent disciples on a mission. The apostles and early disciples witnessed such demeanor. The Mass readings for the Fifth and Sixth Sundays in Easter take us to incredible moments in the early church when these fearless, fruitful and fervent followers of Jesus set out to proclaim their joy.  

Community needs  

Chapter 6 in Acts of the Apostles begins with a need because of the preaching of the apostles, the number of disciples, that is to say “converts and believers” in Jesus Christ, grew rapidly. At the same time the needs of the larger community were under met. Thus, the apostles were presented seven men filled with the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom they ordained and tasked them with the mission to serve. These are our earliest deacons, ordained to serve the “table” and the works of mercy. Their mission was so fruitful that even more people converted to the faith, including some least expected, namely, priests in the Temple (Acts 6: 7).  

Life_Giving Faith.pdf

Stephen stands out in this moment as “a man filled with faith and the Holy Spirit” (Acts 6:5). This early deacon’s fervent works done in the name of Jesus proved to be powerfully fruitful. Synagogue officials, disturbed by his works, falsely accused Stephen of blasphemy and had him stoned to death at the feet of Saul. Even during the stoning, Stephen asked God to forgive the accusers as he handed his spirit over to Jesus. Fearless. Fruitful. Fervent. Stephen answered the call, helped the community, shared the message of salvation in Jesus and died doing such. Reflect on this message: What is God calling to me to do for him and for the community? How am I witnessing faith, hope and love? Who is persecuting me?  

Scattered & sown  

After the martyrdom of Stephen, some of the disciples scattered into the neighboring as well as distant lands to share the message of Jesus. Philip fearlessly traveled to Samaria and caught the hope of the people who witnessed his wondrous deeds performed in the name of Jesus. They were filled with joy and came to believe. Peter and John joined Philip and together prayed for the coming of the Holy Spirit as they laid their hands on them. A people once scattered by exile were sown with the seeds of hope in Jesus Christ by the apostles and were filled with the Holy Spirit. Fearless. Fruitful. Fervent. Who can I share the hope of Jesus with? What “distant land” is God calling me to go to? How am I sowing the seeds of faith?  

Living stones  

Peter describes Jesus as “a living stone” (1 Pt 2:4-9), the one whom we follow, the cornerstone of our life. Am I allowing Jesus to build me “into a spiritual house,” stone by stone, as to be a sacrifice for others, faithful in the Lord and, at times, rejected by others when we proclaim his goodness in who we are and by what we do? Think about this. How am I “a spiritual house” of Jesus? Is my “structure” fortified by the living stone, Jesus Christ? Do I remain strong and unbreakable during times of strife? Or do I crumble when adversity tries to break me down? Am I built of living stone: a person filled with the Holy Spirit; a person of sacrifice for others; a person of humble prayer and praise for God; a person who welcomes a community with love; a shelter for the lost; a rock of faith; a proclaimer of truth; a witness of mercy, hope and peace? Fearless, Fruitful. Fervent.  

How can we know the way? 

In the Gospel of John, Chapter 14, Jesus gives the Twelve Apostles strong assurance as they partake in their last meal with the Lord. The opening verse reveals Jesus’ halting compassion and care for his followers. He says, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me” (Jn 1:1). Jesus prepares them for what is about to take place, while simultaneously expressing a full reliance on God and him. He tells them of the dwelling places he will prepare for them and all who are faithful. Thomas asked, “How can we know the way” to these places? Jesus simply replies, “I am the way, and the truth and the life” (Jn 14:5-6). He calls them and us to follow him and to follow the Ten Commandments. And we are not alone, for Jesus promises to send the advocate “to be with you always” and “not leave us orphans, and I will come to you” (Jn 14:16, 16). 

Jesus’ way leads us to eternal life. The beginnings of eternity are RIGHT NOW. “Where?” you may ask. The way begins at our baptism, as we become part of his mystical body. We continue with a strengthening by the Holy Spirit, as were the apostles, when we receive confirmation. We are nourished on his way by the Eucharist, his very body and blood, soul and divinity, food for the journey, for everlasting life. This is the pinnacle of our faith. “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world” (Jn 6:51).  

Along his way, we keep the commandments in the forefront, as well as the beatitudes. At times we stumble, and perhaps even fall face forward into sin. Yet, his way is rich in mercy, hence we receive the sacrament of reconciliation, are forgiven and are back on the path of truth. His truth is revealed in sacred Scripture and sacred tradition. As we come to know Jesus, we come to know truth and come to know the father. Fearless. Fruitful. Fervent.  

Jesus’ way is the way of life on earth and life everlasting. What path do I walk on each day? My way or Jesus’ way? Do I receive the sacraments instituted by Jesus for us to encounter his abundant gifts of grace and real presence? How have I called upon the advocate, the Holy Spirit, to guide me on the way, asking for an outpouring of the gifts? Am I a fearless, fruitful and fervent disciple of the risen Christ?  

… Loving God, our Father, strengthen us to become witnesses to the saving grace of your Son, Jesus, our Lord. Amen. (Excerpt of the Disciples Called To Witness: Prayer, USCCB.)  

Dow is the director of the Office of Evangelization and Catechesis for the Diocese of Baton Rouge.