Friday of the Second Week of Easter
(Acts 5:34-42; John 6:1-15)
It goes without saying that Pharisees are not gospel favorites. Many picked on Jesus because they could not recognize that his healing on the Sabbath marked the dawning of a new age. But the New Testament does recall some Pharisees who helped Christ. Nicodemus in the Gospel of John comes first by night to learn from him and then in daylight to bury him. Paul calls himself a Pharisee. In today’s reading form the Acts of the Apostles a leading Pharisee defends the apostles in front of the Jewish Sanhedrin.
Of course, Gamaliel does not accept Jesus. He only states that as a matter of policy religious tolerance is more judicious than persecution. His reasoning is memorialized in the saying: “…if (Christianity) comes from God, you will not be able to destroy them; you may even find yourselves fighting against God.” Such religious tolerance was mandated by Vatican II but with a different logic. The Council taught that the human conscience is inviolable. No state or person has a right to interfere with how an individual worships God.
During Easter time the first reading at mass from Acts guides our recall of the early Church. Every day we learn more of Christianity’s spread from Jerusalem throughout the world. From the readings we should realize that the Church is guided by the Holy Spirit. She has no reason to fear other faith traditions. Indeed, there is need to dialogue with them concerning the experience of God.