A Reflection on the Readings for Saturday of the Octave of Easter
Today, in Acts, we see Peter and John before the Sanhedrin. Though the leaders, elders, and scribes want to quiet them, they rely more on threats than severe punishment because the Apostles currently have popular favor. This scene brought a few thoughts to mind. First, on one hand, I can be tempted by the heroism of persecution. The apostles were beaten, silenced, and killed for being radical disciples. I know that the Church thrives in the face of hardship. I can see the truth that in many times and places “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church” as Tertullian said. However being hated, challenged, and persecuted is hardly a foolproof test of the authenticity of our Christianity. I can be hated for being a jerk, challenged for being out of line, and persecuted justly for being a poor Christian. So, I can’t measure my authenticity against hardship, but what about ease?
My second temptation is the affirmation of acceptance. Just looking at today’s reading I see that it was popular approval that spared Peter and John. So, it is easy to think that if I’m authentically living out my faith, then I’ll be loved by all. But loving all does not ensure I’ll be loved by all. Thus, this fails to be a foolproof test because even Jesus, who is the most authentic example of Christianity, was hated enough, by some, to be killed. So while being loved could be a sign of authentic Christian living, it could also be a sign of “selling out” for popular appeal (a popular accusation made by my generation). So if the success of our Christian living (if I can use the word success) isn’t measured by persecution or acceptance, is there a standard?
I think a standard emerges from Peter and John’s response to the Sanhedrin. They tell the Sanhedrin, “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.” They are unconcerned about whether they are hated or loved, they are concerned about being obedient to the commission to bear witness to Christ and His Gospel. This obedience does not become a burden for them, but frees them from the constraints of placing the judgements of people above the judgment of God. This standard of obedience means that my life is at the service of Christ. It means that both persecution and acceptance, ridicule and praise should be effects of the same cause, authentically bearing witness to Christ in both word and deed and in both my vertical relationship with the Lord and in my horizontal relationships with others. Lord, give us the gift of your wisdom so we can bear witness to you always and that we can face persecution with perseverance and acceptance with humility.
Originally posted at Ite Missa Est