Thursday, April 23, 2009


First Reading: Acts 5:34-42
Psalm: Ps 27:1, 4, 13-14
Gospel: Jn 6:1-15


We have such beautiful readings today, all three of them.

In today's reading, we hear the words of Gamaliel, a member of the Sanhedrin, as to what should be done about the apostles. He presents two examples of recent figures that quickly rose to prominence among the people, but were just as quickly forgotten once they were gone.

This message should be easy for us to recognize nowadays. For example, who was number one on the radio at this time last year? Can you name the valedictorian of your high-school class? Who was president before Abraham Lincoln? Can you name three former U.S. Supreme Court Justices? Our world is filled with people who led or inspired us and then disappeared. The culture today focuses on one issue or person until they are completely exhausted, then moves on to another rising star. The common phrase for the phenomenon is "fifteen minutes of fame."

The leaders that Gamaliel mentions were great political leaders, protesting Roman rule and Roman taxes. Judas founded a sect of Judaism known as the zealots, who sought to violently overthrow the Romans and all those who allied with them, proclaiming God as the leader of the independent nation of Israel. For those seeking a messiah who would lead them against their hated rulers, Judas fit the description. He was most likely killed by the Romans for inciting rebellion. His followers continued on (we know his sons were crucified), but their sect did not last long after the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple.

Theudas took a different approach. He convinced people that he was the messiah; that he would divide the Jordan River and lead them into the wilderness, away from Roman rule. He was also captured and killed on orders from the Roman governor. His followers were either killed or captured; no one followed his teachings after his death.

In this light, the counsel of Gamaliel is very true:
So now I tell you, have nothing to do with these men, and let them go. For if this endeavor or this activity is of human origin, it will destroy itself. But if it comes from God, you will not be able to destroy them; you may even find yourselves fighting against God. -Acts 5:38-39
If Jesus had simply been another would-be messiah, a political upstart or spiritual leader, his followers would soon disappear. Either they would kill themselves with the effort to maintain belief in their leader, or they would lose hope, then interest and finally forget. But Jesus was not just claiming to be a messiah, he is The Messiah. His message has not faded from history, it has made history. Even now, after two-thousand years, his teachings are still spread among every nation, despite the countless attempts to discredit or destroy them. Jesus himself promised us that nothing can destroy His Church or His message (Mt 16:18). His teachings cannot die, because He is alive and still with us, leading us on.

I encourage you to take some time on your own to delve into the gospel reading today. It is very deep and there is a lot that can be learned from it, so read it a few times if you can.

Heavenly Father, You are truly awesome. Your promises that you made to the apostles have been tested and found true. We thank you for the gift of this day. Lord, bless those who continue to spread the good news in our day, be they priest or layperson, great saint and humble servant. We beg pardon for those who seek to discredit Your Holy Church, especially for those of our brethren who have turned away from Your mercy. Grant that their hearts be open to hear Your word anew. We ask all of these things in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

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