Monday, August 26, 2013

Saint Benedict Press: The Gospel of the Holy Spirit: Meditation and Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles

When looking for some reading about the Early Church, most people look for the Early Church Fathers like Clement of Rome or Polycarp of Smyrna. However, I would recommend going a little further back and opening the Bible. You could read some of the Epistles Paul wrote to various churches and note how the issues afflicting those churches are still present today. I personally would recommend starting with the Acts of the Apostles and reading about historic events such as the Martyrdom of Stephen, the Conversion of Saul, and the Council of Jerusalem. When reading any book of the Bible, though, you should read it with the Church's guidance, perhaps with a commentary such as The Gospel of the Holy Spirit.

The Gospel of the Holy Spirit is written by Fr. Alfred McBride, a priest with about 60 years of service and a doctorate in religious education.  He is considered one of the most influential religious leaders of the 20th Century. In this commentary, Fr. McBride starts by dividing the Acts of the Apostles into two separate books - "The Book of Peter," which covers Acts 1 to 13 and "The Book of Paul," which covers Acts 14 to 28. Even though I have read Acts several times, I never noticed this natural division in the book.  Now that I have seen it explained on paper, it makes perfect sense. There are 29 chapters in this book, which means you could work through this book solely over the period of a month. You could also decide to use it in a group study.

I really like that each chapter is broken down into three parts - the commentary, reflection questions, and a concluding prayer that ties in elements of what you just learned. One should always pray when reading the Scriptures, and this helps reinforce that. I always like to try and find a favorite part in a book I review, but that's hard when it comes to commentaries. However, I did find the section on Pentecost (Acts 2:1-12) to be absolutely fascinating. The way Fr. McBride compared the events of that day to different Old Testament events, especially from the book of Exodus, was eye-opening and made me look at the birth of the Church in a whole new light.

If you have never read a book of the Bible before or want to read the Bible deeper, I would recommend reading a synoptic Gospel, preferably Luke first, and then picking up The Gospel of the Holy Spirit   Why Luke? Luke and Acts are essentially two volumes of a larger book, so you will get a fuller picture of the message Luke was trying to convey by reading both, rather than one or the other. I would love it if Fr. McBride would do a book like this one for the Gospel of Luke, because this was a 5-star book. If he doesn't though, one can always take his Catholic Course on The Christ, which covers all four Gospels.

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