A great persecution broke out in Jerusalem after the stoning death of the deacon Stephen, today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles says. Followers of Jesus, mostly Greek-speaking Jews, were scattered through Judea and Samaria. The apostles– Galileans–seem unaffected by it and remain in Jerusalem.
Persecution leads to new growth, Luke’s account says. The mystery of the cross seems to lead to death, but it brings new life. Individuals experience that mystery, but the church, the world, creation itself, also experience this mystery.
Philip, one of the Hellenic deacons, brings the gospel to the city of Samaria, and “there was great joy in that city.” Philip, a new voice, joins Peter and the other apostles; he preaches the word and “proclaimed the Christ to them.” That’s another theme found in Luke’s writings: new voices proclaim the good news.
Like Jesus, Philip performs signs and wonders. Possessed people are freed; “many paralyzed and crippled people were cured.” Like Jesus, Philip healed people.
The healing ministry is a ministry of the church we may forget or minimize today, but it’s not forgotten in the Acts of the Apostles or the gospels. They’re clear about its importance; it flows from the resurrection of Jesus, who came to raise up our mortal bodies and make them like his own.
In healing, the church reaches out to people in the body, a body that’s fragile from birth till death, a body that needs care and healing. Following Jesus, the church take on a mission to raise up the body, to say it’s valuable no matter how it appears.
Pope Francis defined the church as “ a field hospital,” reaching out to humanity broken in mind and body.