Friday of the Second Week of Easter
April 16, 2021
Acts 5:34-42; Psalm 27:1, 4, 13-14; John 6:1-15
In yesterday’s first reading we see that the Apostles are brought before the Sanhedrin after the Holy Spirit miraculously intervened to release them from jail the day before. They were being reprimanded for preaching the resurrection of Christ throughout all Jerusalem. Just as the Jewish leaders were infuriated by Christ’s teachings, so too are they infuriated when the Apostles teach in his name. The members of the Sanhedrin are so angry at this that they want to kill them.
During this interrogation, a respected member of the Sanhedrin comes to their defense. His wise message is both simple and prophetic: be careful what you do with these men, because if their preaching is of human origin it will fizzle out and fade away, just as it did with other revolutionaries who came and went before them.
However, Gamaliel says, if their teaching is from God then they will not be able to be destroyed. In fact, if their teaching is true then you will not be able to stop them, and you may find yourselves fighting against God himself.
The Sanhedrin heeded Gamaliel’s words and released them after flogging them and warning them to stop preaching in the name of Jesus. What did Peter and the others do when released? Did they return home licking their wounds, promising to no longer teach that Jesus was raised from the dead?
No! They rejoiced at their mistreatment, they rejoiced that they had been found worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of Jesus’ name! This persecution they experienced actually seemed to embolden them to preach all the more, as we are told that they continued to preach “all day long, both at the temple and in their homes.” I suspect they may have remembered today’s Psalm as they stood before this group of angry and frustrated religious leaders:
“The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom should I fear? The LORD is my life’s refuge; of whom should I be afraid?”
The courage and fearlessness of the Apostles came about as a gift from the Holy Spirit, the same Spirit who comes to each of us at Baptism and Confirmation. The same spirit who is at work in our lives, bringing about our salvation and empowering us to speak boldly in the name of Christ.
Just as the Apostles knew that they had nothing to fear as long as they continued to exercise and teach their faith, so should we trust that God is working in and through each of us to bring about his plan of salvation for all mankind. We have received the same Holy Spirit that fell so powerfully on the Apostles at Pentecost, removing all of their fears and doubts.
Today let each of us recall the words of the Psalmist and fear not when we are persecuted for our faith. Let us not be afraid to stand up to our culture of death, speaking words of truth and life to those who have bought in to the lies of relativism. Those who refuse to believe that there is objective truth, the truth spoken by the creator of the universe, first through his prophets and then taken to a new level by his only begotten son, who not only lived to teach us this truth, but who also died to show us what true love is.
Saint Pope John Paul II’s catch phrase was, “Be not afraid!” May we take these words to heart and never let the circumstances of our lives, however difficult or dreadful they may be, be but mere speed bumps on our journey to heaven. May we always trust that the Holy Spirit is with us to give us exactly what we need, when we need it. May we understand that because God is with us, we should never fear proclaiming our faith to others, both though our words and our deeds! God bless you.