During the Easter season, our First Readings will focus on the Acts of the Apostles – what they did and how the people responded to their new ministry. Today, we hear that “more than ever, believers in the Lord, great numbers of men and women, were added to them.” As Peter and the others spoke to crowds about their experience of Jesus Christ, people responded by seeking to know more and by placing their own faith in the Lord. This is the evangelist’s dream.
At the time of the Acts, Jerusalem was still a city “of compact unity,” as the Psalmist would say. It was about 1.25 miles from the north to south, and a little more than ¾ of a mile from east to west. That’s about one square mile in area. By way of comparison, Edgemere is 20.6 square miles (almost half of which is water), and Dundalk proper is 45 square miles. This means that our Pastorate is somewhere around nine times larger than the area preached to by the first Church in Jerusalem. And yet, as the Apostles preached, people heard and were convinced to keep listening, and then they listened and began to believe, and they believed and they followed.
Everything – all of this – began in a tiny parish (by our standards) and took over the world. There are over 2 billion Christians in the world today. To take it back even farther, the Christian “movement” began in that Upper Room, where only a handful of Jesus’ closest friends were gathered – and as we hear today, one of them didn’t believe the initial proclamation!
This reality should be an encouragement to us. When we talk about “Missionary Discipleship,” and about “living the Gospel and making Disciples,” sometimes we hear that as simply a cute slogan. However, they are not. These ideas are at the heart of who we are; and they have been from the very first Easter. It is what the Apostles did, and it is what we are called to do. Today, we are those people about whom Jesus speaks when He says, “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” We, then, have a duty to share this message with the world.
The third largest religious identification in the world is “Unaffiliated,” with around 1.3 billion persons saying they have no religious identification. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they do not have any faith or spirituality; but it does mean that they are not keen on connecting themselves with Christ (or Mohammed or Buddha or even the flying spaghetti monster). These are the people in our mission territory. The goal here is to give evidence of the life-changing relationship that we have with Jesus and to share that in a way that draws others to want to have that relationship too. We know that it is a valuable gift; do we treat this faith that way?
Thomas encounters the risen Lord today and makes a bold declaration of faith. “My Lord and my God” means that no other thing can have a claim on Thomas again – nothing; only Christ. That is what it means to be convicted in faith; and this is what has changed the lives of countless Christians throughout history. These are people like us – Thomas is like us; he is also like those who are not with [us] when Jesus comes; and we know that there are many. We will probably go home to them today. Is our response the same as the other Apostles, who announced to Thomas, “We have seen the Lord!”?
If a handful of Jesus’ disciples could operate from a one-square-mile parish and spread the Gospel across the world, what could a Pastorate of 2,000 families do? Today, we encounter the risen Lord here in this Mass. He is present to us, just as He was present to Thomas in the Upper Room. Our response to that encounter will set the program for the rest of our lives. Our mission territory starts at these doors, and Jesus goes with us just as He did with the Apostles. May our lives be the story of Jesus’ actions in our world around us, as He works at the same time in our hearts.