Thursday of the Second Week of Easter
“My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord” (Is 55:8). The Gospel readings that the Church proposes to us over these days remind us of just how much the life that God offers us surpasses what we could ever fathom for ourselves. It is not enough to say that “God is love” without also recognizing that we do not love as we ought: it is God himself who reveals what love truly is through Jesus Christ.
“The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14) in the world, so it is in the world (and not in our heads or some purely spiritual place) that God is to be found. But we should be very careful not to confuse the ways of the world with the ways of God. Our readings from the Acts of the Apostles this week remind us of this fact. In yesterday’s reading, we saw how the apostles, having been imprisoned by the authorities, were led out of prison by the angel of the Lord. When God commands us to leave the prisons that the world creates for us, we should obey God and not the worldly authorities that insist that we remain there. In today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles, Peter boldly proclaims, “we must obey God rather than men!” Of course, God can command obedience through men, even men like Pilate (Cf. John 19:11). Nonetheless, we should be ever mindful of the temptation to simply equate, as the ancient Romans did, the voice of the people (vox populi) with the voice of God (vox dei). The crowd did condemn Jesus, after all, and we should not think that it did so simply out of allegiance to others who wanted to crucify Jesus.
The Christian should not be swept up by the crowd, nor should he feel constrained by unjust laws, but he should live from a freedom and an obedience that comes from above. At times for us, as was already the case for Peter and his companions, our obedience to God may appear to others to simply be disobedience to our human superiors, whether they be teachers, employers, those around us, or others. No human authority has the right to forbid us from loving God and neighbor as we ought. Insofar as we live from God’s grace, we will be given the freedom to do so, even in the face of those who would seek to limit that freedom or, as we will see in tomorrow’s reading, will flog us for it. Christ’s resurrection does not free us from the injustice of the world, but it frees us to love in the midst of it with a freedom that comes from Christ and points back to him, for all to see, especially those who are most troubled by it.