Easter season brings an extra delight each year because so many of the readings come from the Acts of the Apostles. This book, the work of the author of the Gospel of Luke, begins with the Ascension and ends with Paul’s proclamation of the church in Rome itself. It is actually a page-turner.
We learn about the election of Matthias to replace Judas, about the coming of the Holy Spirit and Peter’s great speech at Pentecost, the cure of the disabled beggar, the conversion of Saul the persecutor (that must have given Peter a shock) into Paul the apostle, and life in the early community. We learn how Peter was inspired to do what was unheard-of for a Jew – visit the home of Cornelius the centurion and proclaim that “God shows no partiality. In other words, the Word was not just for Jews.
I’ve barely touched the contents of the Acts of the Apostles but I hope I’ve inspired you to take out your Bible and read Acts yourself. Or just follow this link. Yes, of course, you’ll hear a good bit at Sunday Mass and more if you go to Mass daily. But there is still so much more. By reading the entire book, you will have better insights on the parts you hear in Church.
An Augustinian friend of mine, the late Father Donald X. Burt, OSA, told me once that the Acts of the Apostles makes a great source of encouragement for people of today who have difficulties with the Church. “To read Acts is to see the power of the Holy Spirit. How else could this community have survived the first century?” he said. Read Acts and renew your hope.
Now: about rewriting English history the way Hilary Mantel has done with her fictional account of Thomas Cromwell in Wolf Hall and Bringing Up the Bodies. If you have any notion of believing that Cromwell was a noble hero and Thomas More was a fanatical criminal, I suggest you visit Manhattan’s Frick Collection on Fifth Avenue and 70th Street. There, on opposite sides of a fireplace, are paintings of the two men by Hans Holbein the Younger. If you can’t get to the Frick, here are the portraits of More and Cromwell from the Frick website.
Mantel said in an interview with The Telegraph, “I think that nowadays the Catholic Church is not an institution for respectable people.” She evidently believes that her negative opinion of the church in which she was raised gives her the right to recast England’s history. Look at these two paintings, especially the eyes, and decide for yourself who is more “respectable.” Even Holbein, who was a favorite of King Henry VIII and wanted to remain a favorite, could only paint what he saw.