Karen and I wanted to welcome you all once again to our study and especially to our “not so small” small group. We are both so excited that you are here with us to share our study of Acts of the Apostles and Letters of St. Paul.
As Karen and I told you on Tuesday, we both like to use this email format to keep in touch with you, to remind you of important dates and/or impart necessary information about a lesson we are studying. In addition, during our own studies of a lesson we often think of something or find some poem, quote or writing that enhances our appreciation of the lesson. We will share with you what we have found. Perhaps pondering this additional information will be useful to you. If not, it is easy to discard what we have shared.
Please remember that some of the lessons will be long. Waiting until Monday night to begin your lesson is a mistake, as it takes several hours to read the material and thoughtfully answer the questions. I have found it useful to spread the work over several days, as doing it all at one sitting tires me out, and then I don’t “do” my best work. Always read the referenced Bible chapters and verses first. Then read the commentary provided in your textbook. Only after reading both the Bible and the commentary should you proceed to answer the questions. If possible read the Bible out loud, as Holy Scripture is meant to be proclaimed. Any time that we can involve more than one of our senses – as our eyes to read and our ears to hear – learning the material becomes easier and more meaningful for us.
We did not pass around a volunteer sign-up sheet for the Dominican Sisters’ Open House which Jane Delaney talked about in our large group meeting. If you would like to provide cookies or water for the event on the 19th of September, please bring the items with you to class next week.
During our meeting on Tuesday I passed around two greeting cards which my sister Christine had sent to me. Christine always chose her greeting cards carefully and had a habit of underlining words or phrases which she really wanted the receiver of the card to know, words which had special meaning to her. I believe that God underlines words or phrases for us as well – words or ideas that He really wants us to know. God’s “greeting card” can sometimes be the Bible. When we carefully read the Scriptures, words or phrases seem to be highlighted for us or they may be words or phrases which we keep thinking about. For example, the words in Acts 1:8 “you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Samaria and to the ends of the earth” seemed to be highlighted for me. So I spent some time thinking about those words.
New beginnings have always exciting for me. I can remember looking forward to the first day of school, when I would receive new textbooks and meet new teachers. There was the promise of new things to learn, new friends to make, new adventures on the horizon. With that in mind I wondered how the Apostles felt when Jesus said “you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Samaria and to the ends of the earth.” That was certainly a new beginning for the Apostles and a scary one at that.
For three years the Apostles had traveled with Jesus, walking from Galilee through Samaria, all the way to Jerusalem. They may have retraced their route several times over those three years, as faithful Jews were expected to celebrate major feast days in Jerusalem and worship at the Temple, if at all possible. As they traveled with Jesus, the Apostles would have shared meals with Him, listened as He taught the crowds who followed Him, witnessed the many miracles He performed. The Apostles spent nights sleeping under the stars, warming themselves around a campfire or sharing accommodations a friend or believer in Jesus had provided. But always Jesus was there, at the Apostles’ side, comforting, protecting, and encouraging them. How frightening this “new adventure” would be now that Jesus had returned to the Father. Perhaps the Apostles wondered, as I certainly would have, “how will we ever accomplish the task the Lord has left for us to do?” “To the ends of the earth” is a huge assignment.
As I continued to imagine the scene on Mt. Olivet on that Ascension Thursday, I realized that through the Holy Scripture Jesus was giving me the same mission of evangelization which He had given to the Apostles. It is unlikely that I will travel to Samaria or even Jerusalem, much less traverse the whole world. But every day God places people in my life. Some days those people are my family or friends; other days when I am out and about, there will be friends or even new people whom I have never met before at the grocery store, the library, or the bank. Every single day I have a chance, and a choice, to share Jesus’ love with those He has placed in my life.
My prayer for Karen and myself, and for you too, this year of our study, is that we take Jesus’ commission to heart, that each one of us goes out to our own “whole world” – on the paths we walk and in places where we live – and continue the Apostles’ mission. Jesus promised to be with us always, walking beside us, blessing our efforts, loving and assisting us just as He had accompanied the Apostles before us. We need only to begin the journey, then trust that Jesus will be with us on the way. This year of Scripture study promises to be a great and grand adventure for all of us. It is time to begin the journey.
May God bless each of you as you study this chapter and continue to fall in love with God’s beautiful Word.
Karen and Franciene