1, 1-14: The Ascension. 1-3.
Like the Third Gospel the Acts is dedicated to Theophilus, probably a noble Roman converted by St. Luke. The scope of
the previous book is recalled; it embraced the deeds and teaching of Jesus from the beginning down to the Ascension.
Our Lord taught chiefly by example during the many years of His Hidden Life and then for about three years by both word and
example in His Public Life.
Connecting the two books, St.
Luke gives a summary of the events after the Resurrection. Jesus communicated with the Apostles for forty days, not
staying with them continuously, but appearing among them from time to time according to His own wise counsels, first in Jerusalem,
then in Galilee, and finally in Jerusalem again. These frequent appearances are the proofs of v.3. Some
of them are recorded in the Gospels.
In these interviews He explained the
Scriptures to the Apostles, making their hearts burn at the glorious meanings hidden in the ancient prophecies. In a
special way the Apostles were instructed about the Kingdom; though it is to be consummated only in heaven, it begins on earth
in the Church to which Christ was to leave the carrying on of the work which He had begun. His part, as direct visible
work, was to end with the instruction, strengthening, and sending forth of His chosen disciples; the application of the fruits
of the redemption was to be their task, though He would be with them always. Since they still had only hazy notions
on many points concerning the organization and administration of the Church, it was to the unfolding of these matters, we
may conjecture, our Lord devoted Himself during the forty days, speaking of the kingdom of God. Convinced beyond
all possibility of doubt, they were now to be His witnesses, fully qualified to testify to this crowning miracle of His Resurrection
and to use it to prove the divinity of their Master, the conqueror of death, the author of life, the God-Man.
4. Our Lord's final interview with His disciples. They were then back in Jerusalem;
as formerly, Jesus joined them and ate with them. It was His will that they should promulgate His law in the capital
city of the old theocracy, the site of the temple of God, the religious center of the Chosen People; the prophets had foretold
that from it would issue the glad tidings of the new dispensation. Our Lord intended, as we learn from the sequel, to
manifest His power there in an extraordinary way at the very beginning of His universal dominion over the hearts of men.
This intention He partly disclosed in the command He gave them; they were to remain in the city to receive the promise of
the Father. They had frequently heard this promise from His own lips, for before His Passion He had told them of the
Holy Spirit who was to be sent by the Father to help them establish the Kingdom. "And I will ask the Father and he will
give you another Advocate to dwell with you forever, the Spirit of truth." "But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit whom the
Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your mind whatever I have said to you" (John 14,
16.26; cf. John 15, 26; 16, 7-15). Cf. also Luke 24, 49.
5. Then Jesus linked this concluding scene of His earthly career with the prediction made
by John the Baptist at the beginning of the Public Life, "I indeed baptize you with water . . . But he who is coming after
me . . . will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire" (Matt. 3, 11). After a short time they would
receive the copious outpouring of the Holy Spirit, their souls being imbued with His divine light and strength as the body
in Baptism is immersed in water.
6. The second part
of the scene is enacted at the place of the Ascension. Jesus had led them out of the city toward Bethany (Luke 24,
50). Not having yet received the full enlightenment of the Holy Spirit, the disciples still clung to some of the popular
errors about the Messias. The whole nation was longing for a military hero who should break the chains that held them
in subjection to Rome. There were no limits to the disciples' confidence in our Lord's power; they knew Him as the supreme
Lord of heaven and earth, and they took it for granted that His purpose included the establishment of the Kingdom in glory.
The only question was about the precise time; they wished to know whether it was to come soon, whether perhaps it might not
be included in the promise of the Father which, as He had just told them, was to be fulfilled in the near future.
7. Jesus answered with patient kindness. God had fixed
the opportune time for manifesting His power; it need not concern them. 8. Still
indirectly He supplied the answer to their question. Yes, it was with the coming of the Holy Spirit that He would begin
the establishment of His Kingdom, but it was to be a spiritual kingdom to lead men along the road of truth and virtue to eternal
life. From the Holy Spirit the Apostles were to receive strength to preach the gospel, not to the Jews only, but to
all nations throughout the world. It was only because of His divine power and foreknowledge that Our Lord could declare
that they were to be His witnesses everywhere, for to the human eye they were poorly equipped for such a worldwide
mission. But the spiritual forces of heaven were behind the chosen band, preparing them in a way the world could not
understand, and with the passing of the centuries even the most skeptical would be forced to admit that in truth the Church
had changed the face of the earth. It is the beginning of this gigantic work that St. Luke is recording in the Acts,
and everywhere in the narrative the prominent feature is the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ, instructing, guiding, strengthening,
9-11. Having given His last command
to the Apostles, our Lord was raised up and carried from their sight to take His place at the right hand of the Father in
heaven. Lost in wonder they could only stand there, gazing longingly after Him till two angels in human form appeared
and recalled them to themselves with the promise of Christ's second coming at the end of the world.
12-14. Then they went back to the city to await the descent of the Holy Spirit.
The upper room where they stayed is referred to as a special and known place by the definite article; it was probably the
one where the Last Supper had been eaten, and perhaps it was in the house of Mary, the mother of St. Mark (cf. 12,
12). There the Apostles, the Brethren of the Lord, the pious women who had followed our Lord during His ministry, and
the Blessed Virgin, assembled regularly for prayer.
15-26: Matthias Chosen. At the proposal of St. Peter they filled the place in the twelve left vacant
by the defection of Judas. From the beginning St. Peter is shown exercising the primacy conferred on him by Christ.
He indicated the course of action, the assembly selected the candidates, but the choice was left to God. Since the Apostles
were to lead men to Christ, the first requisite was that the candidate should have shared in their experiences from the early
days of the Public Life, and the first duty of an Apostle was to testify to the great historical fact of the Resurrection.
The Resurrection is the central proof used by the Apostles to show the mission and divinity of our Lord; cf. 3, 15;
1 Cor. 15, 12-22.
20. Both Psalms
quoted by St. Peter are Messianic directly or indirectly. The Holy Spirit is said to have spoken by the mouth of David
because God is the principal author of the Scriptures.
1 In the former book, O Theophilus, I spoke of all that Jesus did and taught from the beginning 2 until the day on which he
was taken up, after he had given commandments through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. 3 To
them also he showed himself alive after his passion by many proofs, during forty days appearing to them and speaking of the
kingdom of God. 4 And while eating with them, he charged them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise
of the Father, "of which you have heard," said he, "by my mouth; 5* for John indeed baptized with water, but you shall be
baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days hence."
6* They therefore who had come together began to ask him, saying, "Lord, wilt thou at this
time restore the kingdom of Israel?"
7 But he said to them, "It is not for you to know the time or dates which the Father has fixed by his
own authority; 8 but you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you shall be witnesses for me in Jerusalem
and in all Judea and Samaria and even to the ends of the earth."
9 And when he said this, he was lifted up before their eyes, and a cloud took him out of their
sight. 10* And while they were gazing up to heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white garments, 11 and
said to them, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up to heaven? This Jesus who has been taken up from you into
heaven, shall come in the same way as you have seen him going up to heaven."
12* Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called
Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day's journey. 13 And when they had entered the city, they mounted to the
upper room where were staying Peter and John, James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son
of Alpheus, and Simon the Zealot, and Jude the brother of James. 14* All these with one mind continued steadfastly in
prayer with the women and Mary, the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren.
Matthias Chosen 15 In
those days Peter stood up in the midst of the brethren (now the number of persons met together was about a hundred and twenty),
and he said, 16 "Brethren, the Scripture must be fulfilled which the Holy Spirit declared before by the mouth of David concerning
Judas, who was the guide of those who arrested Jesus; 17 inasmuch as he had been numbered among us and was allotted his share
in this ministry. 18 And he indeed bought a field with the price of his iniquity and, being hanged, burst asunder in
the midst, and all his bowels gushed out. 19 And it became known to all the residents of Jerusalem, so that the field
came to be called in their language Haceldama, that is, the Field of Blood. 20* For it is written in the book of Psalms,
'Let their habitation
become desolate and let there be none to dwell in it.'
'His ministry let
21 "Therefore, of these men who have been
in our company all the time that the Lord Jesus moved among us, 22 from John's baptism until the day that he was taken up
from us, of these one must become a witness with us of his resurrection."
23 And they put forward two: Joseph, called Barsabbas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias.
24 And they prayed and said, "Thou, Lord, who knowest the hearts of all, show which of these two thou hast chosen 25 to take
the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas fell away to go to his own place."
26 And they drew lots between them, and the
lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.
5: You shall be baptized: not the
sacrament of Baptism, which they had already undoubtedly received, but the fuller outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost.
6: It is altogether likely that
the Apostles at this time had a more spiritual view of the kingdom, though this view was still imperfect.
10: Two men: angels in
Sabbath day's journey: about two-thirds of a mile.
14: Brethren: relatives, probably cousins.
20: Pss. 68, 26; 108, 8.