How do you suppose the apostles felt that night? I mean, think about it. Your Rabbi and friend was just brutally killed. The Jews might come for you next because you knew him. You’re probably plagued with guilt because you ran away at Golgotha and probably plagued with doubt because you thought he was the Messiah but he still died.
Put yourself in their shoes.
So, all inwardly jumbled with these thoughts and feelings, what do the disciples decide to do?
Sail to the other shore. Get away from that place where their friend died, and where all of these angry people who might want to kill them too, are.
Again, put yourself in their shoes. They were terrified. They were probably sad, and full of regret and doubt. So they flee in the middle of the night. Sailing across the sea, wind begins to blow, and once again the poor apostles are terrified.
But then, imagine this; the very friend they betrayed, the very friend whom they loved, the very friend who was killed, is walking on the water toward their boat. Imagine that.
Now how do you think the disciples felt? Fear? Surprise? Wonder? And then Jesus speaks; “It is I, do not be afraid.” Do not be afraid. After all of the fear, the fear of the stormy seas, the fear of the Jews, the fear that Jesus might not have been who he said he was, Jesus tells them do not be afraid; it is I.
Do not be afraid.
Think about how reassuring those words must have been for the apostles. After all the chaos and craziness of the past few days, after all the fear and the doubt, Jesus gives them the words they need: It is I; I am alive, I am the Messiah; Do not be afraid; I am with you, do not fear neither the Jews nor the storm. It is I. Do not be afraid.
How applicable these words are to today! With the fears of the pandemic still running, how much people need the calming words of Jesus: It is I, do not be afraid.
Perpetua Phelps is a high school student residing in West Michigan and is the second of four children. Apart from homeschooling, Perpetua enjoys volunteering at her church, attending retreats, studying Latin and French, and reading classics such as Beowulf, The Lord of the Rings, C.S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy, and Mark Twain’s Joan of Arc. She also spends much time writing novels, essays, and poetry for fun and competition. A passionate Tolkien fan, Perpetua is a founding member of a Tolkien podcast.
Feature Image Credit: vytas_sdb, https://www.cathopic.com/photo/20005-oceans
One of my earliest memories is of watching the news on television. It was the late 1960’s, and we had only three TV channels in those days—this was in France—and they were filled with images from America, white police officers turning water hoses and dogs on Black protesters in city streets. I wasn’t old enough to understand what it meant, and I cannot remember if my family even discussed the events we were watching unfold; I do remember the violence of the images, though, and they haunted my sleep.
Later, probably much later, when I learned about the history of the civil rights movement, I wondered at the courage of those people who’d put themselves in harm’s way for the sake of what was right. I hadn’t quite grasped the concept of sacrifice—despite what the nuns were teaching me in school!—and it seemed either very brave or very foolish to go into a situation knowing the outcome would most probably be violent. I was at the same time learning the history of the early Church, and my dreams were twisted—scenes of Christians in the Coliseum mixed with Black kids being beaten. It was a bad time.
I know a great deal more now about both these situations, but what I’ve retained from my childhood is the wonder at people willing—and in many cases eager—to put their lives on the line.
I was reminded of that when I read today’s passage from the Acts of the Apostles. Gamaliel was a teacher of Paul and was a leading exponent of a more liberal and humane interpretation of the Law, and he was the voice of reason in this council. As soon as the apostles left, he addressed the assembly, warning council members not to be too hasty in their judgements. He gave two examples of leaders—Theudas and Judas the Galilean—who’d started rebellious movements and, in both cases, attracted quite a large following of supporters.
Both of these leaders died and, when they did, their movements fell apart. Gamaliel draws a conclusion from that: the revolts weren’t meant to succeed. And if this “Jesus movement” was left alone, it too might fall apart—after all, its leader, too, was dead. Leave these people alone, he counseled; if the movement is just another human endeavor, it will destroy itself, you don’t have to help it on its way. On the other hand, if it comes from God—well, there’s nothing you could do to destroy it anyway.
While Gamaliel was persuasive, the Sanhedrin still for good measure wanted to have the last word, and they had the Apostles whipped—forty lashes minus one, according to Jewish law. It was without doubt a horrible experience. Yet Peter and his companions left the council rejoicing “that they were considered worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name.”
They were experiencing the blessedness Jesus had spoken of in the Sermon on the Mount: “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
The message of the Gospel is clear. It is a message of love, of inclusion, of joy. It is also a message of sacrifice, of responsibility, and of suffering. Generations have been willing to be persecuted for righteousness’ sake: the Church calendar is filled with martyrs. As people continue to put their lives on the line for what they know to be right, I will continue to be both horrified and inspired—horrified by the cruelty of some, and inspired by the faith and fortitude of others.
And while the civil-rights workers sang, “We shall overcome, the Lord will see us through,” I realize that in many smaller ways, I, too, can overcome. I can in my life’s situations stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves. I can in my life’s situations speak out against injustice, cruelty, and oppression. I can in my life’s situations live the Gospel as clearly and completely as possible.
I can learn from the past. I can overcome.
Jeannette de Beauvoir is a writer and editor with the digital department of Pauline Books & Media, working on projects as disparate as newsletters, book clubs, ebooks, and retreats that support the apostolate of the Daughters of St. Paul at http://www.pauline.org.
Feature Image Credit: Tama66, https://pixabay.com/photos/apostle-bible-rome-1701732/
In today’s reading, Peter and the Apostles were brought before the Sanhedrin. The high priest admonished them, saying they were not to preach in Jesus’ name. Peter responded: “Obedience to God comes before obedience to men.”
Indeed. God is the one we must obey. His laws are the ones we must live by.
Though many manmade laws are based on the Commandments and morality, there are some unjust and downright evil laws that we cannot obey—namely laws allowing abortion and euthanasia.
The Fifth Commandment tells us that we must not kill. That means that we must cherish and respect all life—from the very moment of creation until the end of life.
It may seem difficult, but we must do as the Apostles did and teach in Jesus’ name.
Jesus spent years teaching His laws. He spent years preaching the Good News. He then sent His disciples out to preach in His name. For over 2,000 years, priests and lay people alike have done so. They did so because it was their responsibility. Likewise, it is our responsibility.
God loves us more than we will ever know. We must show our love for Him by following His commands. So let us think about how we can do that today and every day.
As we pray and discern how we can amend our actions, let us seek the intercession of the saints. They followed God’s word and were obedient to Him. Let us model our lives after theirs.
We need God’s holy name now more than ever. In a world filled with immorality, we cannot sit quietly. We cannot allow the passage of more unjust laws.
And we cannot allow obedience to men to come before obedience to God.
Susan Ciancio has a BA in psychology and a BA in sociology from the University of Notre Dame, with an MA in liberal studies from Indiana University. For the past 17 years, she has worked as a professional editor and writer, editing both fiction and nonfiction books, magazine articles, blogs, educational lessons, professional materials and website content. Eleven of those years have been in the pro-life sector. Currently Susan freelances and writes weekly for HLI, edits for American Life League, and is the editor of Celebrate Life Magazine. She also serves as executive editor for the Culture of Life Studies Program-an educational nonprofit program for K-12 students.
Feature Image Credit: Stephanie LeBlanc, https://unsplash.com/photos/z4LXu7NiII4
I really enjoy Eastertime. It is really brought to life when we read the Acts of the Apostles every day! It also brings to life what they did and what we should be doing. A couple of verses before today’s readings in Acts people would bring their sick and lay them in the street hoping that at least Peter’s shadow would fall upon them and they would be healed (and they were). Folks, is that great or what?
It is no wonder then that the Sadducees became jealous of those involved and threw them in prison. We know that the Lord had a different plan for them. That day, an Angel let them out. They went to the temple and did exactly what they were told to do, preach the Good News.
Have you or I ever failed to do what God has asked us to do? For me, I would have to say yes. There are two ways to solve a problem like this: humanly or spiritually. We are confronted every day with a myriad of problems, some big and some small. But we need to make decisions on every one of them. I am reminded of a time a few years ago. A coworker came into my office and was perplexed as to what color to paint his house. He and his wife had gone through many color chips and just couldn’t agree on a color. I asked him if he had prayed about it. “What?!” he said. “God doesn’t give a rip about what color my house is!” “Not true”, I said. “He does care. He cares about everything.” He replied with something like, “Whatever!” then threw his hands up in the air and walked out. I never did hear how that turned out.
I entered the business world knowing nothing about the business world. It was very stressful to say the least. Little by little I learned that saying a short prayer before jumping in on something really made a difference.
We have hundreds of thoughts going through our minds every day. We have plenty of opportunities to ask the Lord what would be most pleasing to him. Let us remember the apostles. The world told them to stop…and God told them to go! You may say, well, they had an Angel to help them! So do you. Your Guardian Angel. Put him to work! He will help you to do the right thing.
Serving with joy!
Deacon Dan Schneider is a retired general manager of industrial distributors. He and his wife Vicki recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. They are the parents of eight children and twenty-nine grandchildren. He has a degree in Family Life Education from Spring Arbor University. He was ordained a Permanent Deacon in 2002. He has a passion for working with engaged and married couples and his main ministry has been preparing couples for marriage.
Featured Image Credit: Ralph, Skirr, https://unsplash.com/photos/5WWkAYZgw7U
Imagine a parish where you walk in and are greeted at the door by a smiling face who welcomes you and directs you to a seat that is reserved just for you. Imagine that those around you aren’t interested in your political ideals or viewpoints on hot topic issues, but they are just grateful to meet you and welcome you into God’s house. Keep imagining, if you will, a place where everyone can freely worship God the way that fits their spirituality, without being mocked or scorned, but they can just be with Jesus in the way they most prefer. Imagine a place where the full truth is preached with conviction, despite what the consequences may be. Imagine someone who is willing to walk through the mess of your life and not judge you or condemn you, but also not leave you in the filth of your sin, but help guide you to the truth.
Sound like a place you have ever been? The reality is that what I just described should be what every Christian church looks like. The question is, do they? Let’s read through the First Reading today and really reflect on it in light of the questions I just asked.
“The community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common. With great power the Apostles bore witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great favor was accorded them all. There was no needy person among them, for those who owned property or houses would sell them, bring the proceeds of the sale, and put them at the feet of the Apostles, and they were distributed to each according to need. Thus Joseph, also named by the Apostles Barnabas (which is translated ‘son of encouragement’), a Levite, a Cypriot by birth, sold a piece of property that he owned, then brought the money and put it at the feet of the Apostles.” -Acts 4:32-37
So what can we say about this reading? As I read through it what stood out was how this is what Jesus wants us to look like as Christian communities. This is what he wants your church to look like. So the simple question is, what can we do to make it more like this? Are we giving of our time, talent, and treasure to help those around us? Are we trying to sow unity while also standing firm with the truth. Are we like Jesus who gave the fullness of mercy to the woman caught in adultery and then promptly said to sin no more? Let’s make a commitment today to be the change. Preaching the Gospel through our actions with the people God has given us. From all of us here at Rodzinka Ministry, God bless!
Tommy Shultz is the Founder/Director of Rodzinka Ministry and the Director of Faith Formation for the North Allegan Catholic Collaborative. In these roles, he is committed to bringing all those he meets into a deeper relationship with Christ. Tommy has a heart and flair for inspiring people to live their faith every day. He has worked in various youth ministry, adult ministry, and diocesan roles. He has been a featured speaker at retreats and events across the country. With a degree in Theology from Franciscan University, Tommy hopes to use his knowledge to help all people understand the beauty of The Faith. Contact Tommy at firstname.lastname@example.org or check out his website at rodzinkaministry.com.
Feature Image Credit: Cathopic, https://www.cathopic.com/photo/5323-luz-iglesia