First Reading (C): Acts 5:12-16

A Ministry of Wholeness

Popular Translation

12 The Apostles did many miracles done for the people in Jerusalem. All the believers usually met at the Porch of Solomon in the Temple. 13 But the others didn't dare to join them in public. Even so, the people in Jerusalem spoke highly about the Christians.

14 More and more people joined those who trusted the Lord, 15 so many, in fact, that they brought their sick into the streets and placed them on mats so that the shadow of Peter would fall on some of them if he should walk by. 16 Many people from the towns around Jerusalem gathered to bring their sick and those who suffered from demons to the Apostles. And, all of the sick and troubled were healed.

Literal Translation

12 Among the people, many signs and wonders happened though the hands of the Apostles. With a common purpose, all (the believers) were in the Portico of Solomon, 13 but no one of those remaining dared to be joined to them, but the people spoke great things (about) them. 14 More were being added to (those) trusting in the Lord, a large number of men and women, 15 so that, even in the streets, (they went) to bring out the sick and to set (these people) on small cots and mats, that when Peter came by, if only his shadow might be cast over some of them. 16 The crowd gathered together from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing the sick and (those) troubled by unclean spirits, all who were healed.

5:12b-13a: "With a common purpose, all (the believers) were in the Portico of Solomon, but no one of those remaining dared to be joined to them." 5:12 b seemed to indicate the Solomon's Portico was a commonly known gathering place for the Christians in Jerusalem. 5:13a seemed to indicate potential converts did not dare to join them.

5:14 "More were being added to (those) trusting in the Lord" can also be translated "More trusting (ones) were being added to the Lord." The word "more" can be translated as a noun or as an adjective.

Like Acts 2:43-47 and 4:32-37, these verses act as summary and a transition. Unlike the other two mentioned that summarized life in the community, 5:12-16 summarize the evangelization efforts of the Jerusalem leadership. And, in the context of Acts 5, these verses acted as a transition point between the controversy within the community over shared property (4:32-5:11) and the ongoing controversy outside the community with the Temple leadership (5:17-42).

Luke wrote these verses in an "A-B-A" form. Comments over miraculous powers formed the "A" sections while "B" consisted of the community's growth. Taken together, these verses answer two questions. First, how did the community reach out to grow? Second, why did the community grow despite the reluctance of the people in Jerusalem?

The answer to both questions lay in the healing ministry of the Apostles. We moderns like to reduce healing ministry to the body, but clearly this ministry did much more. Within the context of the times, the ministry took charge over the spirit world, especially over those malevolent spirits who caused physical, psychological, and social evil. The end result of their ministry was the wholeness of people. The "signs and wonders done at the hands of the Apostles" brought the sick and the outcast not only health. These miracles restored the healed to their places in families and in the community. For Luke, this ministry of wholeness was the first step in evangelization.

We might not have the power to cure, but we do have the tools to help make others whole. Our compassion, our outreach, our initiative to the outsiders can be the first steps in bringing others to Christ. Why? Because, like the Apostles, our efforts reveal the power of God. Our ministry to wholeness shows others what sort of God we profess to trust. It shows others we are his instruments, his means to bring others into the fold.

How have you reached out to help others? How has God rewarded you efforts?