Today’s reading: Acts 21:31 -22:16
Today we read the speech delivered by Paul to the crowd in the temple that wants to kill him. He starts by speaking Hebrew. This is to let the crowd know that he is a Jew. Then he details his bona fides that he studied under the great Rabbi Gamaliel and that he previously earnestly persecuted the Christians.
Notice he recounts his conversion and he repeats the words Jesus said to him precisely. Jesus said to Paul, “Saul, Saul why do you persecute ME”. It wasn’t a mistake or a misstatement. Jesus is so intimately connected to us that he counts the persecutions of this followers the same as if he is being persecuted himself.
Then we read this important statement about Paul’s baptism:
And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.
Notice, here baptism is described as having the effect of washing away your sins. It is not merely a symbol of an inner reality (although it is that too) but it is an action that has the effect of doing what it represents. This is the definition of sacrament. Christ gave us instructions to do things. If these things were merely symbols there would be no effective change from the old covenant. However, because Christ’s sacrifice is effective and because Jesus is so closely united with the Church the things Jesus instructed us to do are effective. That is why we see here that when Paul talks about baptism he says it actually washes away sins. That is why when we see the Apostles lay hands on converts we are told that the Holy Spirit actually comes down upon them. That is why marriage is an unbreakable bond between two people where the husband and wife become one flesh. That is why when the Priest says, “this is my body” it actually becomes the body and blood of the Lord.
Tomorrow: Acts 22:17-29