Today’s first reading continues, as it does every Easter, through the Acts of the Apostles. Obviously, this teaches the early days of spreading the faith.
Today in the first reading we see an intensely significant moment in the early days of the Church. It is here that the faith is now seen as something to spread to the previously excluded gentiles throughout the world. If this moment did not happen, you would not be here.
St. John Chrysostom in the fourth century likened this moment to Jesus’ parable of the king who throws a banquet and the invited guests do not come, so he sends his messengers out to invite to the others.
There are several lessons here.
First, we must understand that God makes it clear in the Old Testament that his word does not return to him fruitless. His word will do what he sends it out to do. God is God and although it often appears that He works slowly, we who are human cannot overpower his intentions for his people. We pray for it everyday and it happens: His will be done.
Those who stand in the way of his will, will eventually either have to submit to it or be cast out.
We see this consistently in the Old Testament. Anytime the Hebrews turn from God either through discouragement, impatience or any other reason and after repeated attempts at conversion fail, he casts them out. This we see when other forces come and conquer the nation and taking the people hostage sending a clear message to the Hebrews that they have abandoned their God.
This happened in the eight century when the Assyrians conquered Israel and wiped it off the face of the map. The name of Israel as the name of the Jewish nation did not exist again after that moment until 71 years ago—a 2700 year difference. If you go to the Museum of Fine Arts, you can see what is mostly likely the statue of the god the Assyrians prayed to before they went out and overran the Israel.
Two hundred years later it happens again when the Babylonians overran the nation of Judah, which is the home of Jerusalem. They destroyed the temple and captured all the leaders of the Jews, dragging them into exile into Babylon, what today is Iraq. They were only restored after what the Jews considered a miracle forty years later when Cyrus the Persian conquered Babylon and restored Jews to their homeland and helped them rebuild the Temple.
It happened other times finally not long after this passage in Acts when the Romans came in and again destroyed the Temple and eliminated the political entity called Judah.
Here we also see that God is now turning to the gentiles and bringing his message of mercy to them not through the Jews but despite them. This is not a message about Jews, it is a message about God and one that we need to listen to as well.
The movers and shakers of the Jews who refused to open their hearts to Christ and His holy spirit were left behind. Many of the rank and file Jews embraced the new Christian way. The Lord can do the same thing to us and maybe doing the same thing to us.
Anytime there is great strain happening among the people of God, it is the Lord’s way of getting their attention and calling them back. When they refuse he has to let them go.
The most dangerous attitude for the people to have at that point is the worst sin one can commit. God forgives, but one must first repent. The worst sin in the Old Testament is idolatry, but the mother of all sins is the worst one we can commit and it is the easiest. It is pride.
This is the sin you see before you in the Gospel. Pride. Pride has only one solution: humility. The Apostles were able to spread the Gospel because they had humility and were able to be docile to grace. The leaders of the Jews were filled with obstinacy and refused to listen to the Apostles’ appreciate the miracles and more. They became so lost that the Lord had to bring the message of salvation to the gentiles without these leaders of the Jews.
When people ask about who goes to Hell, the answer is in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. It teaches that the obstinate heart is one the that goes to Hell. This is not just the sinner, but the one who refuses to repent. He won’t repent because how can he, he does not sin at least not in his own mind.
St. Teresa of Avila taught that with humility you can draw God into your heart by a thread. Humility is being docile to grace and it is the greatest virtue to pray for because it is the mother of all virtues. It is the port to salvation.
Pride is easy to fall into because you consider yourself greater than you actually are. Humility forces you to accept yourself as you truly are, but that is the door to holiness.
Imagine these fishermen who were disciples of Jesus coming before the Sanhedrin. Imagine one of our national news agencies covering the event. Who are they going to favor, obviously the educated men in the Sanhedrin and report dismissively of the fishermen going out and preaching about this person Jesus.
St. Paul, formerly working for the Sanhedrin could easily argue that everything the apostles are saying is true. However, I am sure the imagined coverage would lean in favor of the Sanhedrin, because they were the educated ones who appeared to know better.
“Of course, who will win out in this dispute the educated Sanhedrin or the upstart fishermen led by an rebellious rabbi? We will keep you updated as this plays itself out.” Reporting from Jerusalem—Jake Roberts St. Anthony News.
It is the humble among them who will be most successful in their evangelization. It is the humble among us who will grow closer to Christ.
When pride moves in disaster happens. We are seeing that in the Church and the nation and the world today. However, the more we embrace humility and the more we pray for it, the more we grow closer, stronger and more powerful in Christ just as happened in the Acts of Apostles and throughout the history of the Church.