We Must Obey God Rather Than Men
Third Sunday of Easter, Year C
Acts 5:27-32, 40b-41; Ps. 30; Rev. 5:11-14; Jn. 21:1-19
(Audio recorded live, 30 April 2022)
In today’s Gospel, Jesus reconciles with St. Peter who denied him three times by asking him three times, “Do you love me?” Each time Jesus asks this question, he addresses Peter by name: Simon, son of John. Jesus gave Simon the name Peter, which means ‘little rock,’ because he would become one of many living stones upon which would be built a great house, the Church. He would later encourage others to follow him in the mission of building up the mystical body of Christ on earth, saying, “like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Pt. 2:5). Now, in the year of our LORD 2022, we find ourselves in a modern era, surrounded by modern things, yet the rock remains firmly planted in our hearts. As the prophet Isaiah said, “See, I am laying a stone in Zion, a stone that has been tested, a precious cornerstone as a sure foundation; whoever puts faith in it will not waver” (Is. 28:16). St. Peter expressed this faith when Jesus asked, “Who do you say that I am?” and Peter replies, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God!” For this confession, Jesus gives Peter the keys to heaven and earth. And while Peter’s faith was shaken, even to the point of denying he knew Jesus, the reconciliation we see in today’s gospel comes with a prerogative. Jesus says to Peter, “Follow me.” This command is issued not only to Peter, but to all who have been called by name, to all who have been baptized, to all who profess their belief that Jesus is the Son of God.
We see how Peter and the other apostles respond to Jesus’ command to follow him in the Acts of the Apostles. They, like Jesus, were put on trial for teaching in the name of Jesus. They may kill the body, but the Word is eternal. And the apostles, led by Peter, filled with zeal say, “We must obey God rather than men.” What they witnessed was far more powerful than the urgings of a corrupt religious hierarchy. The apostles say, “The God of our ancestors raised Jesus, though you had him killed by hanging him on a tree.” Who was it that caused the crowd to riot when Jesus was on trial with Pilot? They knew Pilot would cave in to their demands if they had the people on their side. They even renounced God by saying, “We have no king but Caesar!” And in response to the same corrupt Sanhedrin, the apostles say, “God exalted [Jesus] at his right hand as leader and savior to grant Israel repentance and forgiveness of sins. We are witnesses of these things, as is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.” They are no longer beholden to the words of men, rather, they stand as witnesses to the truth, they stand under God.
We might ask ourselves, where do we stand? Do we stand under corrupt men who impose their will upon us and torture us at will? Do we stand under those would use anger, hatred, and fear to control our reactions? Or do we stand under God, who frees us from any such attachment through the blood of Christ? Are we able to speak freely about our faith? Or do we find ourselves avoiding the topic so as not to offend someone? What is more offensive? To speak the truth so others may come to Jesus or to speak the truth and be scourged for it? Why the knee-jerk reaction to discussions of faith in our day?
There is only one path forward and it is Christ. He is the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through him. But, in a world that has grown cold from secularism, we, like Peter, as living stones, are called to follow Jesus, as difficult as that may be. We are the light of the world; a city set on a mountain. Our light cannot be hidden unless we choose to hide it, like Adam and Eve after they sinned. We have nothing to hide that will not be revealed by the light. There is no shadow that can exist within the light, and our faith is the guiding principle for how we live in the light. The path has already been paved, we have only to follow in the footsteps of the Master; the house has already been built, we have only to dwell in it worthily.
And so, as we approach the altar today, to receive the source of our faith, may the communion we share unite us in the mission of the apostles, who rejoiced because they had been found worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name. And filled with the Spirit of Christ, may we join our hearts and voices to that of Peter and John and all the apostles who said, “There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved” (Acts 4:12).
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