Since Easter, we have been privileged to hear proclaimed at Mass the immediate aftermath to the Resurrection as recorded by St. Luke in the Acts of the Apostles. Today’s first reading (Acts 5:34-42) details the end of the trial of the apostles by the Sanhedrin. It highlights the insight of the revered (to this day) Pharisee Gamaliel who, knowing that some of his colleagues wished to put the apostles to death for their preaching and miraculous acts, issues a warning to the assembly that they may be opposing God by opposing the apostles. The gathering relents, flogging the men and ordering them not to preach in Jesus’ name. The followers of the Nazarene rejoice in this humiliation and go on to continue “teaching and proclaiming the Christ, Jesus” (v.42).
The question for us today is: How well do we imitate the apostles? In the United States and most of the western world, while we can surely acknowledge the growing antipathy toward religion, particularly Christianity, we certainly do not fear for our lives — as the earliest Christians did — because we hold to the Christian faith. But are we willing to “suffer dishonor for the sake of the name”? What price would we pay for extolling Jesus? Being made fun of? Ostracization? Losing friends? Losing a job? And what do we have to gain? Much more: Heaven.
We are commanded by Jesus in scripture to evangelize (see Mt 28:19-20); it is not simply a suggestion. So sharing our faith is essential not optional. It should be readily apparent in our words and actions. But we are not to shy away from proclaiming the Good News as well. How has Jesus made a difference in our lives? How might He make a difference in the lives of those we encounter if they came to know Him through our witness? How much do we know about Jesus and the Faith we claim to hold? Are we interested in learning it more broadly and deeply? Are we willing to share our knowledge with the uninstructed? Are we reticent or even afraid to dialogue with those who do not share our beliefs?
Let us never concern ourselves with any earthly dishonor that we may suffer because we take our faith seriously and want to share it in some way with everyone we encounter. Rather, like the apostles, may we rejoice to suffer something, even a very little thing, for the sake of “the name that is above every name” so “that at the name of Jesus every knee [will] bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue [will] confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil 2:9-11).