As I was reflecting on the readings for today, I was struck by what Peter and John say to the Sanhedrin in our first reading from Acts (4:13-21). After the Sanhedrin tell Peter and John to stop speaking and teaching in the name of Jesus, they respond, “Whether it is right in the sight of God for us to obey you rather than God, you be the judges. It is impossible for us not to speak about what we have seen and heard.”
“It is impossible for us not to speak about what we have seen and heard.” To have that faith and that attitude is remarkable to me. But we may say to ourselves, “Well, they were eyewitnesses to those things. What have we seen and heard like that?” I always need to remember, especially during this Easter week, that there have been times when I have experienced Easter. There were times when I was discouraged, or times when there was a crisis out of which I could not see a way, and somehow, I made it through. I didn’t make it through by my own power – it was by the grace of God. Those times were experiences of Easter! If you’ve had similar experiences, you’ve experienced Easter! There is something you’ve seen and heard!
And when we can recognize those times as signs of God’s love for us, perhaps we could find it impossible not to speak about what we have seen and heard. I think our most effective testimony is not quoting Scriptures or church dogma, but about witnessing to what God has done for us in Jesus Christ.
And may our testimony not only be in words, but in how we live our lives. The reason Peter and John came before the Sanhedrin, is that they healed a beggar in the name of Jesus. May our witness include acts of healing and service to others, so that what we have seen and heard in our own lives can be communicated in a way that everyone can understand.
Fr. Phil Paxton, C.P., is the local superior of the Passionist Community in Birmingham, Alabama.