10 April 2013. Wednesday in the Second Week of Easter
Acts 5:17ff. The apostles Peter and John are twice arrested, but without violence.
Jn 3:16ff. “For God so loved the world…” — summary of St John’s theology of grace and faith.
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.”
A matter-of-fact approach
Today’s Scriptures present salvation as a struggle between darkness and light. On one side we see worldly forces at war with the way of the Lord. Peter and John are opposed by the high priest and the Sanhedrin, on whose authority they are arrested and imprisoned by the temple guards. This is echoed at universal level in John’s gospel about God’s sending his only son as the light of this world; the light and darkness clash within human hearts, and each one’s salvation depends on the outcome.
Alongside this vision of struggle we also glimpse the quiet, normal routine of ordinary people. After being freed by an angel, Peter and John are soon again in the temple courtyard, preaching to an enthusiastic group of people, acting as though nothing extraordinary had taken place. And when the police arrest them again, they do so without any show of force, for fear of being stoned by the crowd. Somehow or other, the ordinary people unarmed except for the stones on the ground by which they can annoy the police, bring about a peaceful solution.
Likewise, 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 things by their right name, their loyalty, their confidence in Jesus’ presence among them, their hope in the goodness of God’s creation, is what makes the difference between success or failure in doing God’s will for our salvation.
Jesus, God’s light among us, 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, he exceeds our understanding and cannot be controlled. If we let him, his warm light helps us grow in love and trust, endorses our enthusiasm for life, our trust in others, whatever is good, noble and worthy of faith.