Scripture Reading for Today: Acts 5:34-42 (read it here)
The Acts of the Apostles mentions how the hearing before the High Council has not gone well for the apostles. Peter plainly asserts that the message of the gospel is nothing they should fear. Instead, it is God’s invitation to repentance and to life.
Unfortunately, this assertion makes the Council only more determined to execute the apostles, and it appears that the apostles would immediately be facing the same sentence of death that Jesus faced.
Yet as vigorously as their opponents try to silence them and even put them to death, the apostles continue to be rescued. No angel of the Lord frees them this time, but a voice of sanity and caution—that of a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a historical figure who was prominent in Jerusalem between 25 and 50 AD.
As a Pharisee he would have been a minority in the Sanhedrin which was comprised mainly of Sadducees. As a Pharisee, Gamaliel is more likely than the Sadducees, who denied resurrection, to consider it possible that a movement based on belief in Jesus’ resurrection might be from God.
By the way, Paul will claim to have been educated at the feet of Gamaliel.
Before he speaks, Gamaliel orders Peter and John to be removed from chambers, as if what he is about to say is something those apostles would not already know.
Gamaliel’s intervention is hardly a positive response to the preaching of the apostles. He simply begins by cautioning his peers to think twice about their determination to seek the death of these men. He wants the Council to consider being patient enough to allow things to run their course.
Gamaliel makes this argument by appealing to two other movements he saw as somewhat parallel to the activity of the apostles. He mentioned two other messianic movements, one started by Theudas and the other by Judas the Galilean, that flourished briefly but came to nothing, thereby showing that they were not from God.
Then Gamaliel argues that if the apostles’ teaching is human in origin, it will destroy itself. But if it comes from God, the Sanhedrin will be opposing God if it opposes the apostles and will not be able to destroy them. Thus, no action on the part of the Sanhedrin is necessary.
The Council is persuaded by Gamaliel’s argument, but only to the extent that they back away from their desire to kill the apostles. They certainly do not accept Peter’s words.
The Council’s opposition moves from threats to physical punishment. For their part, the apostles are not deterred from their mission. They rejoice that like the prophets of old they have been found worthy to suffer for witnessing to Jesus and for their resistance to the religious leaders.
Both by their announcing the good news and by their acceptance of suffering, the apostles repeat Jesus’ own life pattern, thereby reinforcing that they are authentic witnesses to Jesus.
Christ offers himself in his Body and Blood to us in the Eucharist so that we may not only profess the true faith in words but also in deeds.
Let us be proud to be Christ’s followers so that we may bear witness to him.
Guided by Mary, let us also not be afraid to suffer ridicule for doing what Christ expects of us.
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Que la palabra de Cristo habite y se sienta a gusto en ustedes (Col. 3:16)
Let us make this a blessed day.
Keep Jesus in your mind and heart and share him with all you meet.
Fr. Michael Brizio, IMC
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