Saturday in the Octave of Easter
The Bold Apostles
The actions of Sts. Peter and John, performed
in this name, cause amazement in the educated leaders of the Jewish people. The leaders, whether rightly or wrongly, perceive Peter and John to be uneducated. (Acts 4:13) Wilhelm H. Wuellner wrote a wonderful book The Meaning of “Fishers of Men” where he digs deeply into ancient literature about fishers and concludes that most likely fishers were educated, business people. It is a fascinating work, but likely of little import in this pericope. Here the issue is not the truth but perception. Peter and John are definitely not part of the educated ruling class, and that is the issue. They do not have the training and experience of the priests, elders, and scribes. Peter and John are proclaiming not only the works of Jesus but also theological statements. In saying Jesus is the Messiah, they assert to have greater insight into the Scriptures and traditions than the priests who reject Jesus. For the elite who have spent their lives studying the Scriptures and guiding the people, this is intolerable. The affront to their ideals is compounded by the fact that Peter and John seem to be performing miracles, which they cannot deny, and now receive the praises of the peoples. (Acts 4:16)
In This Name
The leaders plan to prohibit speaking
in this name, i.e., ban talking about Jesus and hope this all goes away. (Acts 4:17) Unfortunately for the leaders, this will not happen. (Acts 4:20) Peter and John cannot be silent anymore than the stones of Luke 19:40. This is to say, the whole of creation has awaited the coming of the Messiah, and it cannot be silenced. The desire for freedom and salvation is inscribed into the fabric of the cosmos. Nothing may silence so deep-seated a desire, and nothing will stop the disciples from proclaiming that Jesus the Messiah has risen and is now Lord of heaven and Earth.
What Else Can be Done?
The leaders were not pleased with the response of Peter and John, but they felt their hands were tied. (Acts 4:21) With the full support of the people, they risked revolt if they punished too harshly. Therefore they let the disciples leave and continue on their work. So it is with the works of the Holy Spirit. Worldly people see in these works a challenge to their power and influence and so try to stop it. However, they cannot. Even had they put Peter and John to death at this moment, nothing would have changed. God’s will is not frustrated by human freedom, and he does not allow us to stand in the way of the salvation of others. Everyone is given a chance for salvation and to be an instrument of the salvation of others. Even if these offers are rejected, God’s will is done. Therefore we should all speak
in this name with confidence because we are participating in God’s will and are assured of triumph.