These days, I can’t help but smile a lot during Mass, especially when the readings are being read. The Acts of the Apostles is truly an amazing book highlighting the power of the Holy Spirit at work in the early Church; and what mighty deeds were accomplished through that same Holy Spirit. From Easter to now, we have seen a definite plot to cover up the truth. In one of the Gospels, we saw the authorities paying large sums of money to the guards to say that while they were asleep, the disciples came and stole Jesus’ body.
Yesterday’s and today’s first reading came from Acts chapter 5. This passage speaks about a husband and wife who of their own free will, choose to join the church, and then tried to deceive the Holy Spirit. This was to both their demise. It is said that jealousy is a green-eyed monster; well that green eyed monster was very prevalent in that chapter – in fact from Jesus’ time. Yesterday we read that “the high priest rose up and all his companions, that is, the party of the Sadducees, and, filled with jealousy, laid hands upon the Apostles and put them in the public jail.” They were jealous because that Holy Spirit was so much at work in Peter and the disciples that no matter how hard the authorities tried to stifle the movement, the number of followers and believers kept increasing. It’s interesting isn’t it – those who claim to be on the side of truth and claim to represent the truth, refuse to accept the Truth.
In yesterday’s gospel, Jesus speaks of there being a light – there being a truth – that came into the world. A light and a truth that we all should love, that we should desire more that anything else. I can almost sense the sadness in Jesus’ voice when he said, “but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed.” Jesus knew that because of their wicked ways, many would reject him outright! The high priest and the sadducees unfortunately fall into that group that refuse to accept the light
There are many people in our society, in our world who refuse to acknowledge the light and the truth, and continue to live in darkness and lies and decadence. As frightening as that is, it is worse when these people hold high office. There is a whole lot of that in our world today isn’t there? Is it that the high priest and the sadducees are afraid of what the light will expose? Could it be that they are afraid of the changes demanded by the light and the truth? Are we sometimes afraid of the light? Is there some truth that we are avoiding because we are either afraid or not ready for the change it will bring?
We all have our faults and our failings; but that’s no reason to be afraid of the light or to run from the truth. Coming to the light will purify; coming to the truth will transform, and its all good!
In yesterday’s first reading, the Apostles had been thrown into jail – the gates were locked and guards were posted. The next day, when they sent for the Apostles -who were preaching about the Light – to be brought into the court, the court officers reported, “We found the jail securely locked and the guards stationed outside the doors, but when we opened them, we found no one inside.” Sometimes the light makes itself so obvious; sometimes the truth literally slaps you in the face; sometimes the light bathes itself all over you; sometimes even a blind man would see the light. This was a perfect opportunity for the high priest and the sadducees and the entire court for that matter, to see the light as the intensity of it was in all their faces! Yet! Yet they all chose to continue in the darkness. A miracle, a tremendous miracle occurred there. Surely, the technology in Star Trek did not exist back in the days of the early Apostles! There was no transporter room and no “beam me up Scottie!” The evidence was all stacking up on the side of Truth – the Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the Living God! The Jesus was all who He said He was, and that all that the Apostles had said and was preaching and teaching was all TRUE!! There was no other way that they would have “vanished” from a secured jail! I could understand their total embarrassment. I guess it would be like a midget slam-dunking on Lebron James in a NBA finals.
So the light, the truth resents itself to the chief priest and the sadducees and they did not know what to do with it, and continued living a lie and in darkness. The Apostles on the other hand knew exactly what they should do with the truth – spread it! Even if it were to cost them their lives – and it did – their mission was to live in and by the Truth, and to spread that Truth to all. It is because of their resolve to abide by the Truth and to spread it, that two thousand plus years later, we have the Holy Roman Catholic Church! “How come” some may still wonder. Well it is because the Truth is not an new movement; it is not a new idea. The Truth is not a new social media network taking the world by storm. Truth is not Facebook; it is not Twitter; it is not Instagram. The Truth is Jesus Christ, the Son of God! The Truth is GOD!
Truth, unlike darkness, does not need to be clung to; it need only to be witnessed to. Truth is not something you use to beat someone over their head with to force them to accept. This is what the sadducees were trying to do to the Apostles by throwing them in jail, and beating them and threatening them. Truth cannot be forced on anyone. It can only be loved and enjoyed and lived in. The early Apostles clearly loved the Truth and they freely talked about their love to others. Their sharings were never accompanied by threats. A true Christian knows that darkness is really just emptiness. There are many things in our culture here in Trinidad and Tobago that are so very empty – the bacchanal and gossip we thrive on; the de-humanization of carnival to name but a few. Its all emptiness! Anything outside of the Love of God is empty. On the other hand, life in Christ Jesus is not empty. It is not cold but love. It is not fearful of suffering and death but boldness to suffer and even to surrender your life for the sake of the Truth, because we know that death no longer has the final say. Life in Christ Jesus gives new life. Once we have been taken by this Truth, the fears of this world that may have consumed us will all lose their hold on us and we will be come free, just as God intended us to be.
Sister, brother, come out of the darkness. Come into the Light, the Light of Christ and have life everlasting.
As God’s dear children, then, take him as your pattern, and follow Christ by loving as he loved you, giving himself up for us as an offering and a sweet-smelling sacrifice to God.
Among you there must be not even a mention of sexual vice or impurity in any of its forms, or greed: this would scarcely become the holy people of God! There must be no foul or salacious talk or coarse jokes — all this is wrong for you; there should rather be thanksgiving. For you can be quite certain that nobody who indulges in sexual immorality or impurity or greed — which is worshipping a false god — can inherit the kingdom of God.
Do not let anyone deceive you with empty arguments: it is such behaviour that draws down God’s retribution on those who rebel against him. Make sure that you do not throw in your lot with them. You were darkness once, but now you are light in the Lord; behave as children of light, for the effects of the light are seen in complete goodness and uprightness and truth.
Try to discover what the Lord wants of you, take no part in the futile works of darkness but, on the contrary, show them up for what they are. The things which are done in secret are shameful even to speak of; but anything shown up by the light will be illuminated and anything illuminated is itself a light. That is why it is said: Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.
(Ephesians 5: 1 – 14)