Last Sunday, in the first reading from Acts of the Apostles, we saw the early Christians in crisis because they grew in number. The Hellenists, Jews from the diaspora, complained that the Hebrews discriminated against the widows of the Hellenists in the daily distributions of food and probably other materials. The crisis would have been a source of disgrace for the early Church, however, the apostles listened to the Hellenists, invoked the Holy Spirit, and with the cooperation of the Hellenists, grace came forth from what would have been a disgrace; the resolution of the crisis gave birth to the ministry of deacons in the Church.
The early Christian community chose seven men, and the apostles ordained them deacons to serve the needs of the community. The first reading from last Sunday mentions Philip as one of the deacons. This Philip is different from Philip the Apostle. Some refer to him as Philip the deacon or Philip the evangelist. Today’s first reading centers on the missionary activities of this Philip in Samaria. In the city of Samaria, Philip proclaimed Christ to the people, he delivered those with demonic possession, and he healed the sick. How did Philip find his way to Samaria?
Recall that Stephen was one of the seven men that were ordained deacons along with Philip. Chapter 7 of Acts of the Apostles tells how Stephen was persecuted and killed. The beginning of Chapter 8 tells us that after Stephen was martyred, great persecution of Christians broke out in Jerusalem. All the Christians, except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. Even though the Christians were running for their lives, they preached the good news wherever they went. That was how Philip made his way to Samaria, and he, like the rest, continued to make more disciples for Jesus.
It is true that when Jesus became a human being, he was born once upon a time. He was born in a particular town to a particular family and a particular tribe. However, his mission was to the whole world. Even though he began with the Jews as his launching pad, he came for the salvation of all. Before his ascension, he gave his followers the responsibility to preach the good news to the whole world, and to baptize those who believe in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. After his ascension, it seemed his followers remained in their comfort zone; they remained in Jerusalem. It was when the persecution of Christians broke out in Jerusalem that the Christians began to scatter from Jerusalem. In that process, the good news went with them to other parts of the world.
The pattern we see here reveals Christ in the crisis; it reveals grace in disgrace. It was the conflict between the Hebrews and the Hellenists that brought the grace of the ministry of deacons. It was the persecution of Christians in Jerusalem that took the message of Christ to the rest of the world.
For the most part, as human beings, we love to be comfortable. We want things to happen according to our plans. We try to avoid crisis. When we apply for school or job, we want to receive “Yes” as our answer. When we write an exam, we want to pass with distinction. We want to make gains in our businesses. We want our marriage to be perfect. We want people to like us and speak well of us. When these things don’t happen the way we want, we are tempted to give up easily. As Christians, we think that it is our right to have everything work in our favor. But from the story of the early Christians, we see that remaining in their comfort zone would have prevented the actualization of the growth of the kingdom. In case you question whatever is frustrating you now, don’t give up! Seek the help of the Holy Spirit to help you discover the grace in that disgrace; to help you discover Christ in that crisis. The difficulty you are facing now may be preparing you for something great. Don’t just go for comfort, don’t be attached to your comfort zone. Remember the words of Benedict XVI, “The world gives you comfort, but you were not made for comfort, you were made for greatness.”
Homily for 6th Sunday of Easter Year A 2023