Preaching not from might but what is right- Friday, Octave of Easter- Acts 4:1-12
For most of us, the heightened spiritual season of Lent gives way to a more relaxed season of Easter. We feel that we have ‘achieved’ much and ‘endured’ much through Lent, and so the Easter season is a period of ‘spiritual reward’! While we may take comfort in such thoughts today, it was certainly not the reality for the early Church.
The early Church under the apostles lived the first fifty days post resurrection, in fear of losing their own lives. However, once they were filled with the Holy Spirit, they were working twenty four seven; now with certain risk to their lives. There was no time for the apostles to sit back.
Chapter four and five of the Acts of the Apostles gives us an insight into the life and trials of the Apostolic Church; a trial that sprang up out of jealousy, for it was a “good deed done to someone” that got the authorities all riled up. One could see the pretext being made out of no apparent context. It sounds a bit amusing that the preaching of two uneducated fishermen was enough to stir the entire Jewish establishment, bringing together the whole shebang to call for a trial.
We are told that at this ‘trial’, a formal session of the Jerusalem Sanhedrin was called. It consisted of the “rulers, elders and scribes along with Annas the High Priest, Caiaphas, John and Alexander and all of the high priestly family. From the historian Josephus, we know that Annas was high priest in 6-15 AD., and his son-in-law Caiaphas was high priest at this time (18-36 AD.; John 11:49; 18:13). The identities of John and Alexander (4:6) are unknown, but some manuscripts read “Jonathan” instead of John. (Jonathan was the name of Annas’s son, who became high priest in 36-37 AD).
There are three takeaways from today’s readings. The first is that this is the third recorded speech or homily recorded in the Acts of the Apostle. In each case, Peter uses the opportunity presented, to preach Christ. Evangelization does not need an organized forum, a pulpit or a stage; it needs a willing heart that is never afraid to preach Christ, and preach the truth. Peter, in proclaiming that it was Jesus who healed the cripple, also blames the ‘supreme council’ of the Jews for crucifying Jesus.
Secondly, when we preach, we need to preach not from stories and jokes that often please ‘itchy ears’ but to preach from scripture. In answering the council, Peter quotes Psalm 118:22. He uses scripture to justify the truth and not some self-help book. Jesus is the stone that the builders (Jewish authorities) rejected and this text from scripture is boldly proclaimed.
Finally, there are many who desire to hear eloquent preaching in a loud booming voice. What you need is not voice modulation and diction but the power of the Holy Spirit. Before each of his addresses, we are told that Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit. Is this what is lacking truly in our preaching? We as preachers are not called to preach with ‘might’ but about what ‘is right’.
Remember what the author of Acts wrote when he penned the Gospel, “When they bring you before the synagogues, the rulers, and the authorities, do not worry about how you are to defend yourselves or what you are to say; for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that very hour what you ought to say” (Luke 12:11-12).
Fr Warner D’souza
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