Saturday within Octave of Easter, April 10
Acts 4:13-21 / Mark 16:9-15
Jesus instructs his disciples; "Proclaim the gospel to all creatures. "
The capital of Texas is named after Stephen Austin, an early pioneer who founded numerous settlements in Texas. Austin didn't like preachers and tried to keep them out of his towns.One reason he disliked preachers was that they were always preaching against his saloons and the violence they caused. One man who knew Austin well quoted him as saying that one preacher could stir up more trouble in his settlements than a dozen horse thieves. When Jesus commanded his disciples to preach the Gospel, he intended them to stir up trouble. That's what Jesus himself did.
Do we challenge social structures that need to be challenged? Like the prophets before him, Jesus comforted the disturbed and disturbed the comfortable.
These proceedings in the Sanhedrin are so typical. Very similar to what’s being done in some countries by religious persecutors. India is now one of them.
First, they try to cow the apostles down with contempt: they were uneducated, they said. By their speech, though, the apostles had shown that their arguments were so excellent that these educated men were not able to answer them. They called them laymen. They were not experts in the scripture and the law, and yet they had their training in the School of the Word of God. They tried intimidation. Truth is always bent and twisted to suit those in power. Finally, they try to muzzle them. Many governments have tried it. In this we are very fortunate in India. The supreme law of the country, the Constitution gives us not only freedom of speech (Article 19), freedom of conscience and the right freely to Profess, practice and propagate religion, but grants us the right to establish and administer educational institutions of our own choice (Articles 29 & 30) and to teach religion in our schools (Article 28). But: Do we really make use of it. These rights are granted so that we can teach religion to Christian children and to make non-Christians into persons with moral convictions and principles and fine characters. Would government first have to muzzle us so that we fight for the right and make use of it?
If we have really encountered the Risen Lord in faith, nothing can stop us from proclaiming him and his Good News. But stronger and more convincing than whatever we say will be the language of our attitudes and actions. As this was the experience of the apostles, it should also be ours. We live the same life as other people, do the same things, but we should do them in a different way if we have really met Christ.
Faith is a gift from God. It is not something we can earn or acquire by our own efforts or resources. But, how God grants this gift of faith and in what measure is somewhat a mystery. A person can read the whole Bible and the profound theological books and listen to the most persuasive preacher and yet do not have faith. On the other hand, a person can just come across an ordinary mundane experience and yet be converted, as in the case of St. Augustine and St. Ignatius of Loyola.
All the four Evangelists have been quoted this week to tell us the story of the resurrection and the importance it has for the world. Mark stresses on the stubborn refusal of the apostles to accept the resurrection. They refused the witness of Mary of Magdala, although she had told them she had seen our Lord. They were too sad to be able to grasp it: "They were mourning and in tears". The two disciples of Emmaus were refused belief. They were only able to be witnesses when the Holy Spirit had come on them. Their incredulity will only be cured when they go out themselves in the service of the world. Only then will the resurrection reach its purpose when Christ will have been preached to the whole world. Not for himself did Christ become man, and suffer and die, but for the whole world.
If faith is a gift from God, then we must treasure and nourish this gift with prayer and devotion. We also must persist in our faith. That is one profound way of proclaiming our trust and faith in God.
Our God and Father, your Son Jesus, lived among us, flesh of our flesh, blood of our blood. He died for our sake and you raised him back to life. May we experience his love and his presence to such an extent, that we can never stop proclaiming what we have seen and heard, and that people may give glory to you, our God. We ask this in the name of Jesus, the Lord. Amen