April 10, 2021
by Dennis Hamm, S.J.
Creighton University's Theology Department - Emeritus
click here for photo and information about the writer

Saturday in the Octave of Easter
Lectionary: 266

Acts 4:13-21
Psalm 118:1 and 14-15ab, 16-18, 19-21
Mark 16:9-15

Celebrating Easter Season

Weekly Guide for Daily Prayer

The Gospel reading gives us an abbreviated account of three appearances of the Risen Lord. The first two show how the early church’s mission got off to a stumbling start. The risen Christ first appears to Mary Magdalene, but the guys don’t believe her. Then he appears to the couple on the country road, but again the other disciples don’t believe their report either. So when Jesus appears to the others, the eleven, he scolds them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, and then, now that they are convinced by first-hand experience, boldly sends them off “to preach the gospel to every creature.” Fortunately for us, they get up and do it.

It takes experience to move the mission forward.  And the reading from Acts gives us a great example of how powerfully that works. The previous chapter, Acts 3, tells about the wonderful sign of the resurrection the Lord works through the mediation of Spirit-filled Peter and John. A beggar at the temple gate, paralyzed from birth, begs for aid, and Peter gives aid beyond the beggar’s wildest dreams. Peter says, “I have neither silver nor gold, but what I do have I give you: in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean, rise and walk!” Then he takes the man by the hand, hoists him up, and the man not only stands; he walks and starts leaping. Since the beggar was a familiar figure who had been begging there for some forty years, the by-standers were amazed. And the temple authorities were stunned. They thought they had quelled the popularity of Jesus and his teaching by having the Romans execute him. But here were two of his country-bumpkin followers, right there in the temple, performing a spectacular healing in the name of this executed man and causing even more of a stir than the Jesus they thought they had got rid of.

All that is behind today’s episode, where the Sanhedrin tries to intimidate Peter and John to get them to stop this talk about the dead teacher. But they discover that it is hopeless to stem the excitement around the healed paralytic, now leaping about in their temple precincts. They tell them to shut up about this Jesus; Peter and John say, pointedly, “Should we obey you--or God?”

Great story from the early church, you might say. But Luke wrote it, and the church continues to read it, not to have us reminisce about the amazing days of the early Church, but because Luke’s narrative tells about the people who follow Jesus after Easter and Pentecost—which of course includes us!

The community of faith to which we belong is still led by the risen Jesus and empowered by the gift of the Holy Spirit. If we find ourselves sometimes unbelieving and hard of heart, like the disciples who at first did not dare to believe the testimony of Mary Magdalene or the Emmaus couple, let’s listen once again to the testimony—the witness of the New Testament, plus that “cloud of witnesses” that populate the next two thousand years and the heroes we know who demonstrate the vitality of the faith we share with them—and even our own experience of love offered and prayers answered. It is the same post-Easter Church that we meet in the Acts of the Apostles. Let’s raise our expectations!

This reflection was written by Dennis Hamm, S.J. for these readings in 2010.

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