Readings: Acts 5:27-33, Ps. 34:2,9,17-20, John 3:31-36

“But Peter and the apostles answered, ‘We must obey God rather than any human authority.’” (Acts 5:29)

After the miraculous deliverance of the apostles from the prison, one would have thought that the high priest and his council would leave them alone. Today’s Psalm says: “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.” When Jesus sent out the apostles to preach in various towns and cities, He warned that He was sending them out as “sheep amid wolves.” (Matthew 10:16). It wasn’t until after the death of Jesus that the apostles would realise the full weight of this statement. This brings us to our lessons today:

1. Never Give Up Because Even Your Enemies Would Never Give Up: The fact that the high priest and his council dared to face the men who miraculously vanished from prison and even threaten them teaches me that no matter how many battles we fight and win, our enemies will not rest. Satan knows how powerful God is, but he never stops waging battles with God’s children. Temptations never really come to an end. When you think it is time to relax, you are on the verge of another war. Now I understand why St. Paul warns: “Pray without ceasing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). While describing the weapons of our spiritual warfare in Ephesians 6, St. Paul concluded with “Pray at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance.” (Ephesians 6:18)

2. Repentance Begins Only When We Admit Our Guilt: The most difficult yet highly profitable exercise to do is an examination of conscience. Jesus once asked: “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but does not notice the log that is in your eye?” (Matthew 7:3). Even after orchestrating the death of Jesus Christ, the high priest and his council refused to admit the truth. They angrily said to the apostles: “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” (Acts 5:28). Who else should the apostles hold responsible for Jesus’ death? Who paid Judas Iscariot? Who instigated false witnesses against Jesus? Who mobilised the crowds to shout “Crucify Him?” The problem with the high priest and his council was that they saw themselves as sinless, next to God and blameless. Have you noticed that it is very difficult to correct a priest? If I fail to examine my conscience, it is easy for me to slip into hypocrisy. Unless we admit our faults, there is no way we will repent.

3. If You Cannot Say It to Their Face, Don’t Say It Behind Their Back: I praise the courage of Peter, who spoke on behalf of the apostles: “We must obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised Jesus, WHOM YOU KILLED by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Saviour, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.” (Acts 5:29-31). Peter admitted to what they had been preaching and repeated the truth. He looked at them in the eye and called them killers. They were so enraged that they wanted to kill the apostles right there. This action was another confirmation that Peter was right. The problem with many of us Christians today (including me) is that, unlike Peter, we refuse to tell people the truth to their faces but go about gossiping about them and spreading rumours. Has anyone ever repented from evil just because of the rumours about them? How do I feel when someone fails to tell me what I have done wrong but goes about telling all my friends?

4. We and The Holy Spirit: Peter concluded his statement by reminding the high priest and his council that they were not alone. “And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.” (Acts 5:32). With this statement, Peter, the once fearful apostle who denied Jesus before a maid young enough to be his grand-daughter, revealed the source of his boldness and ability to work miracles. Dear friends, it is time to begin our novena to the Holy Spirit. We need the Holy Spirit. As far as serving God or witnessing is concerned, we are useless without the Holy Spirit.

5. We Must Obey God Rather Than Men: In our Gospel passage today, Jesus says to Nicodemus. “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God rests upon him.” (John 3:36). The choice is ours to make. Peter chose to suffer in men’s hands than to suffer eternally. Jesus said: “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:28).

Let us pray: Almighty, ever-living God, deepen my trust in your Divine Protection. Through Jesus Christ, Our Lord. Amen

Be Happy. Live Positive. Have Faith. It is well with you. God bless you. (Saint Stanislaus, Bishop, Martyr. Bible Study: Acts 5:27-33, Ps. 34:2,9,17-20, John 3:31-36).

@Rev. Fr. Evaristus E. Abu