Wednesday in the Second Week of Easter
Acts 5:17ff. The Temple police arrest the apostles, but without violence.
John 3:16ff. “For God so loved the world…” – a summary of St John’s theology.
A Matter-of-fact approach
The Scriptures present two aspects of our salvation. On one side we are told about forces at war with the ways of the Lord. Peter and John are caught in a struggle that involves the high priest and the entire Sanhedrin. They are arrested by the temple guards and imprisoned. This same struggle at universal level is echoed in John’s gospel about God’s sending his only son as the light of this world. Light and darkness clash, leading to a judgment decreed for the universe.
Along with this vision of struggle we also glimpse the insignificant normal routine of ordinary people. After being freed by an angel, Peter and John are again in the temple courtyard, preaching to an enthusiastic group of people. They are acting as though nothing had taken place, whether it be their imprisonment by the forces of Judaism or their wondrous deliverance by an angel. And when the police intervene, they do so without any show of force, for fear of being stoned by the crowd. Somehow or other, the ordinary people without any weapons except the stones on the ground by which they can annoy the police, bring the police to peaceful submission.
Likewise, in John’s gospel, Jesus seemingly asks for nothing other than sincerity, to act “in truth,” and to live in the light of his presence. The deep intuitive faith of people at large turns out to be the stable ingredient of religion. Their matter-of-fact response, their rallying around defenseless Peter and John, their ability to call everything by their right name, their continuing loyalty, their confidence in Jesus’ presence in their midst, their spirit of hope in the goodness of God’s creation, here is where the difference is made between success or failure in accomplishing God’s will for our salvation.
Any number of questions are put to us by these ordinary people. Do we attempt to control everything by planning and authority? Do we have a false kind of security, that makes us so deadly serious about having everything in its proper place? Does this somber, rational grip upon life eat away at our spontaneous joy and exuberant faith in life? Are we afraid to take any chances, because we really do not have that much trust in God or in one another? Do we make everything and everyone gravitate around ourselves, selfishly for our own benefit, on the pretext that we thus keep everything “very good”? Are we free and spontaneous in witnessing to our faith in Jesus? Does our whole way of life manifest the “light” which Jesus’ presence radiates in our midst? Or do we tend to be depressed and melancholy? Are we fearful and suspicious?
Jesus not only begets life by his intimate love, but also nourishes that life by his Spirit. His presence is as clear as the light of the sun, surrounding us on every side. And yet like the sunlight, Jesus too evades our understanding and can never be controlled. Gently the warm light of Jesus coaxes us to grow in love and trust. It endorses a warm enthusiasm for life, trust in others, quickness to rally around whatever is good, noble and worthy of faith (Phil 4:8).
First Reading: Acts 5:17-26
Then the high priest took action; he and all who were with him (that is, the sect of the Sadducees), being filled with jealousy, arrested the apostles and put them in the public prison. But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors, brought them out, and said, “Go, stand in the temple and tell the people the whole message about this life.” When they heard this, they entered the temple at daybreak and went on with their teaching.
When the high priest and those with him arrived, they called together the council and the whole body of the elders of Israel, and sent to the prison to have them brought. But when the temple police went there, they did not find them in the prison; so they returned and reported, “We found the prison securely locked and the guards standing at the doors, but when we opened them, we found no one inside.” Now when the captain of the temple and the chief priests heard these words, they were perplexed about them, wondering what might be going on. Then someone arrived and announced, “Look, the men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple and teaching the people!” Then the captain went with the temple police and brought them, but without violence, for they were afraid of being stoned by the people.
Gospel: John 3:16-21
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.”