TODAY’S FIRST READING (Acts 5:27-33)
As we work through Luke’s Acts of the Apostles in the afterglow of the Resurrection, we are blessed to receive a master’s course in the earliest Church. I had the privilege of lectoring at today’s Mass and the following words, taken from the Pharisee’s interrogation of the Apostles in the Sanhedrin after ordering their arrest, struck me in a new way in my proclaiming them:
[Y]ou have filled Jerusalem with your teachingActs 5:28
and want to bring this man’s blood upon us.
This is quite something when you recall the words these same Pharisees put in the mouths of the frenzied crowd (cf. Mt 27:20) at Jesus’ trial in response to Pontius Pilate:
And the whole people said in reply, “His blood be upon us and upon our children.”Mt 27:25
(A notable aside: These controversial words were excluded from the subtitles in Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ although he has the crowd shout these words in the final cut.)
Now, of course, the Jewish mob in making this oath “invokes a curse upon itself, staking their lives to their decision” (Hahn and Mitch, The Gospel of Matthew, p. 68). Little did they know that, while these rash words would ultimately bring condemnation in the fall of Jerusalem some forty years later, this same blood was shed for the salvation of the world, including this fanatical crowd itself.
It was this consideration that reminded me of maybe my favorite image of the entire Bible in the revelation given to John of the great multitude in heaven:
[One of the elders] said to me, “These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”Rev 7:14
If I could commission one painting by a professional artist it would be of a lamb on a cross with blood dripping down on the soiled garments of an onlooker making every spot the droplets touch “dazzling white, such as no fuller on earth could bleach them” (Mk 9:3). These words, of course, are from the Transfiguration event. And doesn’t the blood of the Lamb have the power to transfigure us from our dark, sinful ways to become “the light of the world” so that we can fulfill the Lord’s mandate that “your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father” (Mt 5:14a, 16).