Thursday of the Second Week of Easter
When Temple police and others confronted Peter in the courtyard of Caiaphas, he denied that he even knew Jesus. Today’s reading with Peter’s sermon to Caiaphas is shocking. We can only be stunned when we compare that earlier denial scene with Peter’s bold words in the midst of the assembled Sanhedrin in today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles. The courtyard encounter before the execution of Jesus is so different from the bold content of Peter’s claim today in the midst of those same members of the Sanhedrin, “We must obey God rather than man.”
This testimony to justify the disregard, even absolute, refusal of Peter and the other apostles to be silent in the days immediately following the resurrection shows that something dramatic has taken place among the followers of Jesus. Their fear of Jewish authorities in the weeks and months before the execution of Jesus has completely vanished. In its place, the resurrection faith empowered the apostolic preachers with a boldness prevalent in so many of the writings of the New Testament, even to the point of martyrdom.
Such a transformation by the Spirit is the only reasonable explanation for the steadfast conviction that human standards no longer must be tolerated, now that God has intervened in human history in such a unique way. This could not have been easy for the first disciples, humanly speaking. After all, the Jewish hierarchy centered in the Temple was a formidable historical and political power. The Galilean disciples would never have been welcomed or esteemed in their company.
It is hard to compare the challenges, which faced those disciples of Jesus with our twenty-first century risks. But, in fact, we are reading more frequently today of such life and death decisions for Christ. Christians are being singled out for execution where faith in Jesus is perceived as evil. This kind of religious racism created an abyss over which it is hard to construct any kind of bridge of understanding and tolerance. We support our brothers and sisters in Christian faith. Faith in Christ is our bridge even when we find if hard to build a firm foundation for our bridge on the other side of the abyss.
- Father Paul Zilonka, C.P. is a Member of the Passionist Preaching Team of St. Paul of the Cross Province