Grace to you and Happy Easter!
There is so much to learn from the life of the early Church as recorded in Acts of the Apostles. I have been drawing from those lessons for the past two weeks. The lesson today is taken from Acts 13:1-3. Permit me to quote it.
“Now in the Church at Antioch, there were prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Symeon, who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a member of the court of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then, completing their fasting and prayer, they laid hands on them and sent them off.” (Acts 13:1-3).
The organizational structure of the Church during the early years of her history was simple. It’s understandable because there were a few thousands of believers then. Similarly, the bulk of the activity of the Church circled around Jerusalem, Antioch and a few other Roman territories in proximity to Jerusalem.
I want us to focus on the way the early Church commissioned missionaries and the way they took the work of evangelization seriously. Did you observe that they were “worshiping the Lord and fasting” when the Holy Spirit spoke? Did you equally observe that even after the Holy Spirit spoke and they selected Paul and Barnabas for the first missionary journey, they still fasted and prayed upon them before commissioning them?
The Church is wise in her preparation for those to be ordained deacons or priests. After the entire four pillars of priestly formations, namely, human, spiritual, intellectual, and pastoral and apostolic, which take years of prayers and studies, there is also a canonical requirement for a retreat preceding the ordination. By so doing, priestly candidates are constantly reminded, as well as grounded, on the person of Christ as their core and priority.
Those called to the religious life go through a similar process of a canonical retreat before their vows. Unfortunately, the all-important sacrament of Matrimony does not have this long preparation.
I will advise people getting married to have a time of prayer and fasting to ask the Lord to lead them all the way through.
Having said this about the vocations of service, matrimony and holy orders, let me apply the same principle to our daily lives as believers. Often, we make decisions and then call God in after our minds are set on what we want to do. I suppose the Christian model should be to ask God’s guidance from the conception stage all the way to the actual execution of the plan.
This is needed more for those involved in ministries in churches. Often, we run the Church as a business enterprise or as managers of a for-profit venture. We design a strategy. Feel right about it and go ahead and implement it. Hardly do we let God lead us in the process. Rarely do we immerse ourselves in the prayerful spirit of ministry by inviting the Holy Spirit to help us as we brainstorm, plan and implement. We tend to forget that we are ministers—shepherds; those called to constantly be in touch with Christ the Good Shepherd through prayers and fasting.
It’s our blessing to invite God before, during and after any mission we want to undertake as believers. I suppose this is the Christian way of doing things. It saves us from doing our own thing instead of allowing God to be the boss. You know, when God is the boss, we are at our best.
Pray: May we learn to invite God all the way through our adventures. Amen.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Wednesday Easter Week 4: Acts 12:24-13:5a; John 12:44-50]
Father Maurice provides a daily blog of reflections based on the bible readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration and developing your own thoughts. It may also be helpful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.