By Fr. Jason Mitchell LC
ROME, May 14, 2014 (Zenit.org) –
Psalm 89:2-3, 21-22, 25 and 27
In a few short paragraphs, Paul traces the history of Israel, a history that leads ultimately to salvation in Jesus Christ, the Son of David. Earlier in the Acts of the Apostles, Luke recorded the overviews of the Israel’s history given by Peter and Stephen.
Addressing the Israelites (Acts 2:14-36), Peter explained the fulfillment of two Old Testament prophesies: first, the prophesy of Joel that the Spirit of God would be poured out upon them was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost; second, Peter quotes a psalm of David and interprets it as speaking about the resurrection of the Messiah. He says that this prophesy is fulfilled in Jesus: “This Jesus God raised up; and of that we all are witnesses” (Acts 2:32). Jesus, crucified by men but exalted by God, is the one who pours out the Spirit from the Father and is both Lord and Messiah.
Stephen’s overview to the Jewish council speaks about Abraham, Moses and David. Stephen affirms God’s fidelity to the promise he granted to Abraham, in spite of human opposition (7:17), the two rejections of Moses by the people and the promise of a future prophet like Moses (7:29-37), the contrast between the idolatrous worship of Israel in tent of Moloch (7:43) and the tent of witness made by Moses according to a divine pattern (7:44), Solomon’s effort to build a house for God even though God does not dwell in houses made with hands (7:47-48). Throughout his overview, Stephen is building a case that the people have resisted the action of the Holy Spirit (Acts 7:51) and actually been unfaithful to God’s law. Like their ancestors, who persecuted the prophets and killed those who announced the coming of the Righteous One, they have betrayed and murdered Jesus Christ, who is the Righteous One and Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.
In his exhortation in the synagogue, Paul prepares the people for the proclamation of salvation through Jesus Christ. He does this by recalling that God saved the people of Israel by leading them out of Egypt, that he cared for them during their journey in the desert, that he destroyed the seven nations of Canaan and gave them the land for their inheritance, and that he led the people through the twelve judges and gave them a king when they requested it. King David was a man after God’s heart and was faithful to his will; David receives the promise of salvation through one of his descendants (2 Samuel 7:12-16). This descendant is Jesus. John the Baptist was not the Savior, but rather prepared the people of Israel for the Messiah’s coming with a baptism of repentance.
In their respective overviews, Peter emphasized the fulfillment of the prophets and psalms in Jesus the Lord and Christ; Stephen showed how the people resisted the action of God in the past and how they resisted and betrayed Jesus Christ, the Son of Man; Paul now emphasizes how God saved his people in the past and offers them definitive salvation (forgiveness of sins) through Jesus Christ, the descendant of David.
Ezekiel the prophet foresaw the day when God would raise up a new David to gather the scattered sheep of Israel. Jesus is the new David who restores the twelve tribes of Israel by appointing twelve apostles to be with him and to be sent out to preach. Through the apostles, “the whole of Israel is restored and the twelve tribes are newly assembled” (Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth, 171).In the Gospel, Jesus says that by choosing the twelve, which includes the one who is not clean (Judas), he is fulfilling the Scriptures (Psalm 41:9).
Jesus’ discourse to the apostles on the night of the Last supper begins with an act of humility. He washes the feet of his disciples in order to teach them that they are to exercise their apostolic authority, received from God, in a spirit of service. Their authority is spiritual when they place themselves at the service of what the Spirit wants to accomplish through them. They are at the service of the Christian community, which in turn is at the service of the Kingdom of God. The apostles are reminded that: “No slave is greater than his master nor any apostle greater than the one who sent him”. If Jesus, the Master and the one who sends them out, humbled himself to wash their feet, how much more should they humble themselves in serving their brothers and sisters.
Through humility, we imitate our Teacher, who is meek and humble of heart. Through communion with Jesus and fidelity to his call, we share in the mission of bringing God’s salvation to all nations.