22 April 2009 Wednesday of the 2nd Week of Easter
Acts 5, 27-33; Psalm 34; John 3, 31-36
We continue meditating on the themes of Easter. The Gospel gives us a summary: the life of Jesus is God’s way of granting us eternal life because of his love for us. “God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” This is what the disciples were preaching with boldness and courage.
The Acts of the Apostles in the first reading tells us about the helplessness of the Sanhedrin (v. 22-26) who feared being stoned by the people if they further abuse the apostles. In verses 17-18, the Sanhedrin put the disciples in prison out of envy. But the angels of the Lord freed them from prison and sent them back to the temple to preach. Peter said that nothing can stop them except God himself, to Him they owe their obedience (v. 28-29).
For the apostles (and Luke who wrote Acts), the truth of their belief in Jesus is seen by the many testimonies of people’s lives, including that of the apostles, and the miracles that has been wrought from the power of the Spirit. No matter what obstacles, the Christian faith thrives, because it is of God. For example, when Stephen was stoned to death, they thought it would quell Christianity, but Christianity further spread like wildfire. Josephus, the historian, mentioned that there were many Messianic groups during their time, but all of them died once their leaders die, but the true faith survived all obstacles, continues to grow and to survive because it is of God (5, 38). It is true what Jesus said in Scripture: we will know the Spirit from its very fruits.
Two short points for today’s reflection then. First, we owe our highest obedience to God. In the Our Father we pray that God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven. All of us, including people of authority, such as our parents, faculty, heads of office, follows the basic principle of obedience to God. Their power of authority originates from God Himself. Therefore, there are times when we owe our allegiance to God’s will above every other person of authority. Thus, we are not obliged to follow their commands when it is against morality and our conscience. We are not obliged to follow them when it comes to our real vocations. For example, many children legitimately disobey their parents when they discover that their parents’ will is not what God has in store for them. Sometimes this applies to our practical lives. We know of priests or religious who followed their vocations against their parent’s will. We know of couples who fought for their love despite the objections from their friends. We know of those who risked their lives for something they knew they were called to do. However, this presupposes, that we have undergone a good and prayerful discernment. It is then highly advisable to seek someone who can give spiritual direction or who can guide you in your discernment. For many of those who found God’s will, they grow old content and at peace.
Second, we should not easily give up. There are times when even the good things we do --- or the noble things we are already doing --- do not get the support we expected. Despite our good will to preserve the environment, fight for justice, protect the victims of crime and violence, we easily give up when obstacles make it difficult for us. The more we fight for something good, the more challenging and frustrating it becomes. Immanuel Kant once said that it is easier for us to be immature; thus easier for us to just let things be as long as we are not affected. Those who have committed themselves to the work of social justice for example have to brace themselves for a series of disappointments, and a continuous struggle with anger. Some of them never saw the fruit of their labors. But if God wants it, He will keep it --- even long after the leaders pass away. If God wills it, even our detractors will be put to shame.