Friday, February 8 – Acts 3:17-26
Peter Speaks in Solomon’s Portico 
All of the four gospels recount miracles. In John, these are given a more focused significance; John calls seven of the miracles “signs.” That is, they are miracles performed specifically to demonstrate that Jesus spoke with the authority of God, by showing that he wielded the supernatural power of God. Miracles had special significance to the first group of converts, who were Jews in Jerusalem, and as Jews, were accustomed to prophets showing their divine credentials by working miracles. The prophecy of Moses which is referenced in today’s Scripture is the first prophecy of Christ’s coming and one of the most strongly worded. In Deuteronomy 18:15-22, appearing right in the middle of the mass of laws given by Moses, is a law concerning the Messiah. Moses states that this law has been given to him by God. Moses predicts the coming of a great prophet, who will be Jewish. God commands the Hebrews to follow the prophet, because he will speak the word of God. But if he does not speak the word of God, he shall die. But how, one might wonder, could a confused Jew tell whether the prophet is true – speaks the word of God – or is false and speaking the words of other gods, or his own words? The answer is that, when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the Lord has not spoken. The Messiah (as this great prophet comes to be called) will make accurate predictions. Thus, one significance of Jesus’ signs is that they relate back to Moses’ prophecy.
Jesus did not perform miracles simply to wow the crowds; he was not a magician putting on a show. Most of his miracles were performed before Jews, many or most of who would have known their Moses like a preacher knows his Bible. More so, in fact, because the words of Moses were the law by which they were expected to lead their daily lives. When Jesus spoke, he put his listeners in a bind. Much of what he said seemed different from the Jewish Bible, and much of it was directly contradictory to the teachings of the Jewish religious leaders. This confounded the listeners; if Jesus was speaking the word of God, they should listen and follow, but if not, they should ignore him and possibly put him to death. So Jesus’ miracles, especially those miracles called signs by John, had special significance. When Jesus said something, it came true. Even more remarkably, when Jesus said something physically impossible, it came true. Because of this, the Jews were able to believe and follow him, for even Moses, the giver of God’s law, had told them Christ would come and they must follow him.
Saturday, February 9 – Romans 12:15
Keeping Our Spirits Up
People who have their minds set on a great goal can undergo extraordinary hardships, for long periods, to reach it. A person who wants to become a surgeon, for example, might spend eight years of constant work, living on bare essentials, just to get through school; and then another six or eight years of training, living with minimum comforts and often heavily in debt, before becoming certified. In fact, this kind of life is the rule for great achievers in life; many of the world’s billionaires grew up in poverty. To live with God is the greatest achievement any of us can conceive. Who would not rather have eternal life than a medical degree or a billion dollars? And many have given everything to reach this, the greatest goal imaginable. Francis of Assisi and countless others gave away fortunes and lived lives of intentional deprivation, just because such things were so paltry compared to the victory they hoped to achieve. Innumerable others have suffered scorn, prison, beatings, or death.
Most of us are not called upon to sacrifice so much. Christ tells us that his burden is light. Really, life as a Christian is sometimes not a “burden” at all. The joy we feel, the friends we meet, and the good choices we make, often allow us a better life on earth; and the burdens of the wicked can be heavy indeed. Today, Paul gives us the formula to lighten our load. First, he tells us, remember to let the joy of the Holy Spirit out of your mental cage. Remind yourself of your goal, for it will sustain you. Second, let God ease the pains we all feel in life. Patience is the state of mind of a person who knows that something good is on the way. Great things can come to those who wait. Everyone suffers. The agony of losing beloved family members, the pain of illness (especially with age), the desperate anxiety of money problems: life is full of pain. The pain is real; but the better we remember the virtue of patience, and the greater our hope and joy, the easier it becomes to bear the painful times.
And, finally, pray. Our minds cannot hold but a few thoughts at a time. When we think about the tasks of this world, we cannot hold God fully in our minds. We cannot possibly remember the lessons we have learned, while we are watching television or thinking about our troubles. Prayer is the time when we can empty our minds of the world, and remember hope and patience. We can remember how great is our goal and this will give us comfort and joy.