11 April 2013. Thursday in the Second Week of Easter
Acts 5:27ff. Peter and the other apostles speak out bravely to the Jewish high council.
Jn 3:31ff. The Father loves the Son and has placed all things in his hands.
First Reading: Acts 5:27-33
When they had brought them, they had them stand before the council. The high priest questioned them, saying, “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and you are determined to bring this man’s blood on us.” But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than any human authority. The God of our ancestors raised up Jesus, whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Saviour that he might give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.” When they heard this, they were enraged and wanted to kill them.
Gospel: John 3:31-36
The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks about earthly things. The one who comes from heaven is above all. He testifies to what he has seen and heard, yet no one accepts his testimony. Whoever has accepted his testimony has certified this, that God is true. He whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. The Father loves the Son and has placed all things in his hands. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but must endure God’s wrath.
The courage to speak our truth
It can be hard to distinguish inner strength from confrontation of others. How can we be sure our convictions are from God and must be obeyed at all costs, or whether we resist authority merely from stubborn pride? Very few have had immediate revelations from God. How then can we tell if our convictions are from God? To follow Jesus and draw our strength from him presumes that we are ready to walk with him even to suffering and death, or to humiliation at the hands of authority. Jesus was nailed to a tree, the most despicable and painful of deaths. All of us, like the apostles, must be ready for sacrifice, risking all for the sake of Jesus.
One norm for deciding if we are following Jesus is in today’s Scripture: “We testify and so does the Holy Spirit.” The Holy Spirit becomes effective in our hearts through personal prayer, week by week, even day by day. We also consult the Holy Spirit by checking out our ideas and plans with good advisors. It is good to have someone from whom we hear the honest, plain truth. This interaction with the Holy Spirit and a spiritual advisor will keep our time of prayer from being simply introspection. Prayer and spiritual guidance are genuine if they impart peace but also make demands upon us to grow and develop beyond our narrow comfort zones.
Another test to see if we are guided by the Holy Spirit is suggested in Peter’s reference to the God of our ancestors. Do I read the Bible and hear it in the liturgy, so as to have my spirit formed in continuity with the early Church’s faith? We need this so as to acquire an integral, whole spirituality. If we pick and choose, we may simply reenforce our own idiosyncrasies and stubborness.. We must interact with earlier beliefs and devotion, so that our present position will seem to be a flowering of the seed that was planted in the past. Then our word, like Jesus’ own, will witness to what we have seen and heard.