One of the most striking perspectives that St. Luke expresses in the Acts of the Apostles is contained in the following words: And when they arrived, they called the church together and reported what God had done with them and how he had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles. (Acts 14:27) It is a subtle notion, but one to which we need to pay attention. Paul and Barnabas did NOT report what they had done. Rather the pointed out what God had done.
This perspective is echoed throughout the book. God adds great numbers to the community. God attracts the Gentiles to the Christian faith. God works through the apostles to bring about healings and to gain the attention of those who listen to the words of the apostles. Perhaps most importantly, God is the one who directly approached Saul and opened his eyes.
Though this lesson is repeatedly brought to our attention, it is necessary for us to remind ourselves every day that without God we could do little or nothing. The greatest of the saints in the history of the Church are the first to acknowledge this. In his Testament, St. Francis of Assisi says the "God gave me brothers." He does not say that men and women were attracted to him by his life of penance.
In many of the parishes where I assist the pastor with Sunday Mass, it is a custom to gather all the ministers of that particular Eucharist for a short prayer before we process into the Church. These are some of the words which God gave me for that circumstance: "Lord, help us always to remember that it is Your name which we praise and Your kingdom which we build," developed from the a favorite quote of mine from the first verse of Psalm 115: Not to us, LORD, not to us but to your name give glory because of your mercy and faithfulness.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld