A simple act of kindness
Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, addressed them, ‘Rulers of the people, and elders! If you are questioning us today about an act of kindness to a cripple, and asking us how he was healed, then I am glad to tell you all, and would indeed be glad to tell the whole people of Israel, that it was by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, the one you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by this name and by no other that this man is able to stand up perfectly healthy, here in your presence, today.
During Easter week, our thoughts turn to the early Church. We hear about Peter proclaiming the Resurrection publicly for the first time, of the miraculous healing of a crippled beggar, and the crowds of people who come to faith as a result. Peter, who only a short while ago was scared of the high priest’s maid, boldly defends his preaching in front of the high priest himself. The high priest and his supporters are powerless in the face of such clearly miraculous power, and though they order Peter to stop, they are forced to admit that they cannot do anything to punish or prevent the apostles from preaching. So much followed from what Peter simply calls ‘an act of kindness’.
Lent is over, and our fasting has quite rightly come to an end. It would be wrong to carry on a penitential fast into such a joyful season! Just as Lent is marked by fasting, Easter should be marked by feasting. But what about our prayer, our almsgiving and our other good works that we tried to take on during Lent? Should we celebrate the Resurrection by praying less and being less generous towards others? We might not keep up exactly the same practices we took on for Lent, but it’s not a bad idea to find something we can do to mark the Easter season.
When we think about our lives and reflect on all the things we need to do, when we look at the world and see all the good that needs to be done, it can be overwhelming. What can we do to save the world, we who struggle so much even to change ourselves? Don’t look at the big picture to start with. It’s much better to start small. And so, like St Peter, why not try to perform one simple act of kindness each day? Something extra we would not otherwise have done, for another person, completely voluntarily, selflessly, for no personal gain. Just the one in a 24 hour period — that sounds quite manageable.
But two things happen as a result. We get into the habit of thinking in this way, and looking for ways to help other people. Once we start acting like this once a day, it’s hard to stop ourselves from doing more!
And when it comes to the big picture, we might achieve more than we think. One act of kindness might not seem like very much in the grand scheme of things. But imagine if everyone in the world were to start doing this from tomorrow. Imagine if tomorrow’s world included an extra 7.9 billion acts of kindnesses. Now that really would make a difference to the big picture!
And that’s before we even begin to think about all the consequences of those small actions. Peter’s act of kindness led to thousands of people coming to faith. Our acts of kindness might well do the same. But even if all they do is stop the people we live or work with from being upset that the bin wasn’t emptied or the washing up wasn’t done, if we help shorten the list of things someone else should have done but didn’t — because we have! — we will be making the world a better place. History shows us that all those saints who changed the Church and the world started with the small things they could do just by themselves, and there is nothing to stop us from doing the same.
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