The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

My Notes on Acts 12:24-13:5a

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 14, 2011

Act 12:24  But the word of the Lord increased and multiplied.

This is a summary verse typical of St Luke. See Acts 2:47; 4:4; 6:7; 9:31; 11:24.  The context of this summary is important, for it shows the spread of the Gospel in spite of opposition, namely, Herod’s persecution narrated in Acts 12:1-19.  For similar contexts see Acts 4:4 in relation to Acts 4:1-22. The summary in Acts 6:7 shows the spread of the Gospel in spite of troubles which arose in the Church itself (see Acts 6:1-7). It also provides something of a transition into the account of Stephen’s martyrdom for preaching the Gospel (Acts 6:8 ff.).

Act 12:25  And Barnabas and Saul, returned from Jerusalem, having fulfilled their ministry, taking with them John who was surnamed Mark.

Due to an impending famine a collection was taken up to aid people in Judea; Barnabas and Saul (St Paul) were chosen to deliver the donations to Jerusalem (see Acts 11:27-30). They have now completed that mission. While in Jerusalem they asked St Mark, a cousin of St Barnabas, to accompany them back to Antioch.

Act 13:1  Now there were in the church which was at Antioch prophets and doctors, among whom was Barnabas and Simon who was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene and Manahen who was the foster brother of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.

There were a number of cities in the ancient world named Antioch. The one mentioned here was located in Syria and was the most important of them. See Antioch in the Cahtolic Encyclopedia. It is sometimes referred to as “the cradle of Christianity” because it was a center of missionary activity to Gentile peoples.

St Barnabas.

St Simon (Simeon) Niger. “Niger” means “black” and probably suggests an African origin.  Some think he is the same individual called Simon of Cyrene, but the identification is purely conjectural.

St. Lucius of Cyrene. According to some ancient writers he became Bishop of Ptolemais in Egypt.

St. Manahen (Manaen).

Act 13:2  And as they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Ghost said to them: Separate me Saul and Barnabas, for the work whereunto I have taken them.

And as they were ministering. For the importance of the word “ministering,” see next paragraph. The subject of the verse is introduce with the Greek adversative particle δέ (de); Luke Timothy Johnson, in his commentary on Acts sees this as highlighting the importance of the Spirit’s request to separate Barnabas and Paul for the work whereunto I have taken them. This work is the missionary activity the begin to undertake in verse 4, the so-called First Missionary Journey of St Paul.

Ministering. The Greek word is λειτουργουντων, from λειτουργέω
(leitourgeō ), which gives us the word “Liturgy”.  In the Greek OT (called the Septuagint or the LXX) the word was used for serving the Lord in worship (see Exodus 28:31, 39; Num 1:50; 4:33; Deut 17:12; Ezek 40:46; etc.). Luke uses it to describe the Baptist’s father ministering in the Temple (Lk 1:23).

Pope John Paul II: The Acts of the Apostles indicates that the mission which was directed first to Israel and then to the Gentiles develops on many levels. First and foremost, there is the group of the Twelve which as a single body, led by Peter, proclaims the Good News. Then there is the community of believers, which in its way of life and its activity bears witness to the Lord and converts the Gentiles (cf.  Acts  AC 2,46-47). Then there are the special envoys sent out to proclaim the Gospel. Thus the Christian community at Antioch sends its members forth on mission; having fasted, prayed and celebrated the Eucharist, the community recognizes that the Spirit has chosen Paul and Barnabas to be “sent forth” (cf.  Acts  AC 13,1-4). In its origins, then, mission is seen as a community commitment, a responsibility of the local church, which needs “missionaries” in order to push forward toward new frontiers. Side by side with those who had been sent forth, there were also others, who bore spontaneous witness to the newness which had transformed their lives, and who subsequently provided a link between the emerging communities and the Apostolic Church.

Reading the Acts of the Apostles helps us to realize that at the beginning of the Church the mission ad gentes, while it had missionaries dedicated “for life” by a special vocation, was in fact considered the normal outcome of Christian living, to which every believer was committed through the witness of personal conduct and through explicit proclamation whenever possible (Mission of the Redeemer, #27).

Act 13:3  Then they fasting and praying and imposing their hands upon them, sent them away.

Fasting and praying indicates that the liturgy continued (see verse 2) and it is in this context that the imposing of hands took place. Concerning the imposition of hands the this article in the Catholic Encyclopedia.

Act 13:4  So they, being sent by the Holy Ghost, went to Seleucia: and from thence they sailed to Cyprus.

Notice the interaction between the Spirit and the Church: command of the Spirit (verse 2), imposing of hands and sending off (verse 3), sending by the Spirit (verse 4).  The Spirit is the power behind the Church and does not dispense with it. “In his promotion of the spread of the Church the Holy Spirit does not act at a distance, so to speak.  Every step of the progress of the Church in the world is rightly attributed to the initiative of the Paraclete” (Navarre Bible) We see something similar in the account of the conversion of the Ethiopian eunuch. The Spirit desired his conversion and sent Philip to bring it about (Acts 8:4 ff.).  Similarly, the Lord desired Saul (St Paul) to become a missionary and sent Ananias (Acts 9:10 ff.). Also, see the conversion of Cornelius (Acts 10).

Act 13:5  And when they were come to Salamina, they preached the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews. And they had John also in the ministry.

The word of God provides a link back to the summary with which today’s reading began.  John is a reference to Mark, who was sometimes called John Mark.

2 Responses to “My Notes on Acts 12:24-13:5a”

  1. […] My Notes on Today’s First Reading (Acts 12:24-13:5a). […]

  2. […] My Notes on Today’s First Reading (Acts 12:24-13:5a). […]

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