Memory of Jesus crucified

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Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

This is the Gospel of the poor,
liberation for the imprisoned,
sight for the blind,
freedom for the oppressed.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Acts 4,1-22

While they were still talking to the people the priests came up to them, accompanied by the captain of the Temple and the Sadducees. They were extremely annoyed at their teaching the people the resurrection from the dead by proclaiming the resurrection of Jesus. They arrested them, and, as it was already late, they kept them in prison till the next day. But many of those who had listened to their message became believers; the total number of men had now risen to something like five thousand. It happened that the next day the rulers, elders and scribes held a meeting in Jerusalem with Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, Jonathan, Alexander and all the members of the high-priestly families. They made the prisoners stand in the middle and began to interrogate them, 'By what power, and by whose name have you men done this?' Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, addressed them, 'Rulers of the people, and elders! If you are questioning us today about an act of kindness to a cripple and asking us how he was healed, you must know, all of you, and the whole people of Israel, that it is by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, whom you crucified, and God raised from the dead, by this name and by no other that this man stands before you cured. This is the stone which you, the builders, rejected but which has become the cornerstone. Only in him is there salvation; for of all the names in the world given to men, this is the only one by which we can be saved.' They were astonished at the fearlessness shown by Peter and John, considering that they were uneducated laymen; and they recognised them as associates of Jesus; but when they saw the man who had been cured standing by their side, they could find no answer. So they ordered them to stand outside while the Sanhedrin had a private discussion. 'What are we going to do with these men?' they asked. 'It is obvious to everybody in Jerusalem that a notable miracle has been worked through them, and we cannot deny it. But to stop the whole thing spreading any further among the people, let us threaten them against ever speaking to anyone in this name again.' So they called them in and gave them a warning on no account to make statements or to teach in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John retorted, 'You must judge whether in God's eyes it is right to listen to you and not to God. We cannot stop proclaiming what we have seen and heard.' The court repeated the threats and then released them; they could not think of any way to punish them, since all the people were giving glory to God for what had happened. The man who had been miraculously cured was over forty years old.

 

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

The Son of Man came to serve,
whoever wants to be great
should become servant of all.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Peter and John are arrested by the Sanhedrin. It is a repetition of what had happened to Jesus. They arrest them because they had healed a crippled man and the people were eager to listen to them. There is a hidden but continuous conflict between the selfish mentality of this world, which is held by the majority of people, and the Gospel. The Word of God is always a little foreign to the world, because it disturbs, upsets, questions, and pushes us to overcome our love for ourselves. It pushes society to go beyond itself, to go beyond what it has already acquired. And the mentality of this world does not like to be upset or disturbed. The power of the Gospel, the power of love, cannot help but clash with a selfish and individualist culture. The men of the Sanhedrin ask the two disciples, “By what power or by what name did you do this?” Peter and John, no longer prisoners of the fear that first made them abandon their Teacher and then lock themselves in the upper room, boldly respond that they were able to heal that man by the power of Jesus, whom they had crucified. That Jesus of Nazareth, whom they considered dead and vanished forever, had been raised by God and was working in the world through that little group of men and women who declared themselves his disciples. The leaders of the people did not dare condemn them, because they were afraid of the people’s negative reaction. Luke notes that five thousand people had joined the first Christian community because of their preaching. Since they could not condemn them, they tried to intimidate them with threats. But Peter is no longer the same man he was when he betrayed Jesus in front of a serving girl in the courtyard of the priests’ house or when he fled after his teacher was captured. Strong with the power of the Spirit that had been poured out in his heart and with his head held high, Peter responds, “Whether it is right in God’s sight to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge; for we cannot keep from speaking about what we have seen and heard.” After having been with the risen Jesus, Peter and John could no longer be silent. They had conquered their fears. Silence itself would have been a betrayal of the Gospel. The chief priests told them not to speak, not to communicate the Gospel. It is an order that reoccurs throughout history: do not preach the Gospel. But those who have the Gospel in their hearts cannot keep form communicating it, even at the cost of their lives. This is the witness of many martyrs, even today. We only have to think of Archbishop Romero, killed on the altar so he would no longer be able to speak. The Word of God cannot be chained, the apostle Paul affirms (2 Tim 2:9).