“As long-time followers of Jesus, how well do we witness to his presence in our lives?” I realize that’s a very personal question but an important one for us to ask every once in a while. Certainly, it is one that our readings today challenge us to consider. Both yesterday and today in our Readings from the Acts of the Apostles, St. Luke has been telling about a formative experience of Peter and the Apostles in the early stages of their post-resurrection preaching about Christ. While the experiences of Peter and the Apostles are often harrowing, St. Luke always includes a few details that make the intimidating power of the authorities much less effective.
Yesterday he told us the Apostles were arrested and thrown into prison so they could not preach about Jesus. Of course, he includes in his account the part about an angel coming in the night to let the Apostles out of prison. The Apostles don’t flee but rather return to the Temple to continue their preaching about Jesus. When the authorities, ready to judge them the next day, order the guards to bring the Apostles before them for judgement, they discover that the Apostles aren’t in prison, they have escaped. While in the midst of their dressing down the guards for their failure to hold the prisoners, the authorities are told the Apostles have not fled but are rather in the Temple telling everyone who will listen about Jesus. The authorities are enraged by their inability to control the situation.
This morning the story continues as Peter and the Apostles are once again arrested and brought before the Jewish leaders. Luke comments that the soldiers arrest the Apostles “gently” because they are intimidated by the crowds who were listening avidly to the Apostles.
The dialogue between the high priest and Peter is classic. The high priest scolds Peter not only for the content of his preaching but even worse, daring to preach about Christ after he was told not to. I’m sure Peter’s response to him was a big surprise. Instead of being cowed by the high priest’s position of authority and his anger, Peter strongly asserts that Jesus is the Son of God. He places the blame for Jesus being put to death squarely on the shoulders of the Sanhedrin. He concludes that they must preach because they have been commissioned to do so by God!
Our reading this morning stops there with the comment that the chief priest and the Sanhedrin reacted with such anger that they wanted to put Peter and the Apostles to death. We have to wait until tomorrow to find out what happens next!
This story from the Acts of the Apostles gives us a pretty dramatic example of what it can mean to be a witness for Christ. How do you measure up? Are you sometimes afraid to talk about Christ in the face of opposition? What are the ways you consistently witness to the presence of Jesus in your life? Do you get intimidated if those around you react hostilely or with skepticism?” Do you realize that your call to witness to Christ comes from God?
All these questions raise important issues for us. They bring us back to the first question we started with, “As long-time followers of Jesus, how well do we witness to his presence in our lives?” What’s your answer???
Fr. Michael Higgins, C.P. is the director of retreats at Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center, Sierra Madre, California.