Homilette for Friday, April 24, 2009

Friday of the Second Week of Easter

(Acts 5:34-42; John 6:1-15)

It is safe to say that Pharisees are not gospel favorites. Many pick on Jesus because they cannot not recognize that his healing on the Sabbath mark the dawning of a new age. But the New Testament does describe some Pharisees as friendly to Christ and to the movement he institutes. One example is Nicodemus in the Gospel of John who comes first by night to learn from Jesus and then in daylight to bury him. Another, from the first reading today, is the celebrated teacher Gamaliel who defends the apostles in front of the Jewish Sanhedrin.

Of course, Gamaliel does not accept Christianity. He only states that as a matter of policy religious tolerance is more prudent than persecution. His reasoning is summarized in the memorable lines: “But if (Christianity) comes from God, you will not be able to destroy them; you may even find yourselves fighting against God.” Vatican II similarly declares religious tolerance essential but uses a different logic. The Council teaches that the human conscience is inviolable so that no individual or society may dictate how another is to worship God.

During Easter-time we are especially called to review the experience of the early Church. Every day at Mass we read from the Acts of the Apostles. We see how the Church starts as a small community in Jerusalem and spreads throughout the western world. Guided by the Holy Spirit, she does not threaten legitimate governments. Rather her teachings, formed by the same Spirit, provide nations with a font of wisdom to develop a strong and loyal populace.