Thursday of the Second Week of Easter
(Acts 5:27-33; John 3:31-36)
Since atrocities have been committed in the name of religion, we have to be careful about Peter’s statement in today’s first reading, “We must obey God rather than men.” We hear of Muslim “holy wars,” but there was a time when Christian Europe was so tragically engaged. To discern whether a particular impulse is of God or not, we must, as the first Letter of John puts it, “test the spirits.”
Testing the spirits means to compare whether a proposed action conforms to Scripture. Take the case of the committed Christian who asks herself, “Should I take on another ministry, or am I already failing to do justice to the work I have?” She will find in St. Paul’s writing the bold statements: “I have become all things to all people” (I Cor 19:22) and “Be imitators of me” (I Cor 11:1). At the same time she may note how Jesus makes strategic retreats at times (e.g., Mark 7:24) and refuses to become overly involved in any one locale (e.g., Mark 1:38). Obviously we sometimes need assistance in our discernment. Fortunately, most of us have wise people nearby whom we may consult.
We Christians have Jesus as our primary model of virtue. Unlike Mohammed who was a businessman and a warrior, Jesus was a pacifist teacher. He will not lead us into battles at those which promote social supremacy more than defend the common good. Some of his sayings are not to be taken literally. (If you have ever looked at pornography, do not pluck on your eye.) But we should always pray to him for assistance. As he says in today’s gospel, he “does not ration the gift of the Spirit” of wisdom.