In the rites for Pastoral Care, the Church gives four options from the acts of the Apostles. Three treat Peter’s experience with healing a man born with deformity in the feet and lower legs. The fourth, from Saint Paul, doesn’t involve a particular healing. But like the experiences of Peter in Acts 3 and 4, it strives to focus less with what happens in the physical universe. The attempt here, as Paul preaches in the Antiochene synagogue, is to reference Scripture and to emphasize the entire saving action of God. As the apostle reminds his listeners–and us–the body will age and die, but rescue from corruption and decay is promised in the realm of sin, not biology. Let’s read:
We ourselves are proclaiming this good news to you
that what God promised our ancestors
he has brought to fulfillment for us, their children,
by raising up Jesus,
as it is written in the second psalm,
‘You are my son; this day I have begotten you.’
The cited Psalm 2 is classified as a Messianic Psalm by Scripture scholars. It praises God for his power over the forces of the universe, and claims the faithful psalmist/believer as a family member of the Almighty. Obviously, the Church interprets the “son” as Jesus, the inheritor of David’s rule.
And that he raised him from the dead
never to return to corruption he declared in this way,
‘I shall give you the benefits assured to David.’
Psalm 16 is also cited below, a song of trust. If ever we are in need of trust, it must be when we are confronted with the deterioration of our bodies. If people live to see the end of the universe, we would witness the end product of entropy, a descent into cold disorder and the eventual end of everything. No wonder we are driven to rely on God’s promises:
That is why he also says in another psalm,
‘You will not suffer your holy one to see corruption.’
Now David, after he had served the will of God in his lifetime,
fell asleep, was gathered to his ancestors,
and did see corruption.
But the one whom God raised up did not see corruption.
Saint Paul concludes his speech to the synagogue gathering by drawing the thread of Moses into a strand of mercy offered by Christ.
You must know, my brothers,
that through him forgiveness of sins is being proclaimed to you,
and in regard to everything
from which you could not be justified under the law of Moses,
in him every believer is justified.
We know from our reading of Acts 13 that the synagogue leaders rejected Paul’s preaching. The Gentiles of Antioch, however, received the preaching of the Good News with “delight,” as Luke tells us. As Christians, we have the heft of twenty centuries behind our tradition. Does this make the news of God’s mercy any more “delightful” for us? If not, are our pastoral care ministers prepared to be effusive in delight when they proclaim this Scripture and others like it to those seriously ill or dying?
For an in-depth treatment of the Pastoral Care rites, check this page that outlines our examination from a decade ago.