Thursday of the Seventh Week of Easter
(Acts 22:30; 23:6-11)
Often when we feel criticized, we plan on how we are going to defend ourselves. We search for impressive words that will show off our wit and put down our critics. But this might be a foolish strategy. We would do better to listen carefully to what others are saying, pray to the Holy Spirit that we might respond prudently, and speak forthrightly what comes to mind. Jesus tells us as much when he says, “'When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.’”
In today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles Paul follows Jesus’ advice. He evaluates the situation and speaks to it. His reference to being a proponent of the resurrection of the dead divides his persecutors. What starts as a probable conspiracy to condemn Paul turns into a debate with half the assembly supporting him. The Holy Spirit is the driving force behind this and all apostolic activity in Acts. He brings Christianity from its humble beginning in Jerusalem to center stage in Rome where it will fan out throughout the whole world.
The Holy Spirit is God’s incomprehensible gift of Himself to us. The Spirit chastens our passions and perks up our senses so that we too might convert others by manifesting divine love. When Cardinal Joseph Bernardin of Chicago died in 1996, an abortionist gave up his practice in nearby Indiana. The doctor had never met the cardinal but was evidently impressed by Bernardin’s ability to express care for all people without backing away from his stand against abortion.