“Jesus charged them not to depart from Jerusalem. (…) You shall receive
power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you and you shall be my
witnesses.” (Acts 1:4.8)
In the year 2012, Year of Evangelization and of the Faith, we will read the Acts of the Apostles. For the Church, it is a foundational and normative text: it gives an account of the faith and evangelization of the first Christian community. The book doesn’t speak about Jesus but about us, His disciples, whose projects are not always from God. Often, they are simply human, even satanic, as Jesus says to Peter, our representative (Mark 8:33)! It is for this reason that the Acts of the Apostles tell us first what not to do and then what to do.
First: what not to do? This year of grace should not be wasted in census and power strategies! The Kingdom does not come from Peter’s sword. His laughable gesture at Gethsemane is a prophecy of what we may do if we only have the chance. But worldly power only cuts ears and stop us from listening to the Word. The attack signal for the 12 legions of angels always ends in shame and flight (Matthew 26:51ff). For this, Jesus orders us not to separate ourselves from Jerusalem, the place of the Cross. We should not look for victories, dreaming of an improbable Emmaus (Luke 24:13ff; Cf. 1 Maccabees 4:1ff). There, on Calvary, we see the only winning “theory”: God shows Himself face to face as love stronger than death (Luke 23:40-48). There, we touch with our hand how much we are loved and, there, we receive the Holy Spirit. Somewhere else, we drink another kind of spirit.
Second: what to do? Here, you should allow me to reveal an obvious, but often forgotten, secret: evangelization is done with the Gospel. The Gospel must be listened to and assimilated until it becomes flesh of our flesh. The Word that took flesh in Jesus is again Word so that it may take flesh in us. People become what they listen to! Christianity is not an ideology with respectable prescriptions and prohibitions. It is a concrete story: that of the Son who makes Himself brother to all in order to reveal the Father’s love.
Our faith is to love that kind of God who was crucified for blasphemy by the religious and the powerful, that kind of free and liberating God whom nobody has ever seen and whom Jesus’ flesh has revealed. This faith comes from listening to the Word who is witnessed first by our life and then proclaimed by the very words of the Gospel. The Gospel shows us what we really are: children, if we keep on doing and teaching what the Son “began to do and teach” as it is written in the “first book” (Acts 1:1), i.e., the Gospel. Christian is whoever lives according to Jesus’ lifestyle. This is not the privilege of few devotees: it is a gift for everybody. Jesus did not put up an enclosure in order to gather the good. He has broken barriers and very holy institutions in order to open the truth about us: everyone is brother/sister of everybody else. Only in this way God is Father to all and the Son is all in all.
The Church is born from the last question of the disciples to Jesus: “Lord, will You, at this time, restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6). They are longing, like us, for Jesus to win back after His apparent defeat. They don’t know yet that His victory is the Cross. The Kingdom of God is not power that dominates, but love that serves everyone. God’s Kingdom is opposite to ours (Cf. Luke 22:24-27, Judges 9:8-15): it frees us from the false images of God and man. Its “magna charta” starts thus: “Blessed are you, poor, for yours is the Kingdom of heaven” (Luke 6:21-26). The Beatitudes are a summary of the Gospel and Jesus’ self-portrait. He is the Kingdom of God who “was in our midst” (Luke 17:21). Now, He will be “in us” on the strength of His Spirit who makes us children, sent by the Father to all the brethren without excluding anyone. Evangelization takes us at the foot of the Cross with Mary (Cf. Galatians 3:1). There, once drunk with the new wine, “we cannot keep silent about what we have seen and heard.” And we will be ready to give witness to it “until the ends of the earth” (Acts 4:20; 1:8).