The closing of today’s first lectionary reading (Acts 5: 34-42) fascinates and challenges me.
The apostles had been arrested, released from prison by an angel, arrested again and brought before the Sanhedrin who had them whipped and released, warning them not to preach again about Jesus.
How do they react? (Acts 5: 41)
So they left the presence of the Sanhedrin, rejoicing that they had been found worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name.
(New American Bible)
The apostles went out from the Council rejoicing that they were considered worthy to suffer disgrace for the sake of the Name.
(Christian Community Bible)
They, however, went out from the presence of the Assembly celebrating, because they had been reckoned worthy to suffer disgrace for the name. (The Kingdom New Testament)
“Worthy to be dishonored” is probably the most literal translation.
How often do I do things to be recognized or to avoid being dishonored by others! I’d like to suggest that the fear of being dishonored, of being looked down upon, is one of the greatest hindrances to following Christ, to standing up for what we believe in.
Yet the apostles rejoiced in this.
And then what do they do? They keep preaching Jesus as the Messiah in the Temple and in people’s homes. They are unstoppable.
Even today there are people like the apostles who maintain a profound interior peace – a true joy – in the face of persecution, in the face of death threats. The most obvious example is the martyred archbishop of San Salvador, Monseñor Oscar Romero. But there are others whom I have met, some priests and pastoral workers in Latin America. I especially think of Sister Pat Farrell, a friend, who ministered in a war zone in El Salvador and has continued to show that peace in her leadership with the Leadership Conference of Women Religious.
But it is something we all can do.
Today I ran across this quote from Vincent Van Gogh, in a Facebook post by Fran Rossi Szpylczyn, that expresses, in a secular way, how to respond to voices that tell us that we cannot or should not do something
If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.
And so, if we hear a voice telling us not to stand up for Christ, for the Kingdom of God, for justice, love, and peace, we ought to do it anyway.
Let nothing, no one, not even the forces of Evil stop us.
As Pope Francis said:
We ought not to fear the Evil One when he tells us that we cannot do anything against violence, injustice, and sin.
the Greek for Acts 5: 41 is:
οἱ μὲν οὖν ἐπορεύοντο χαίροντες ἀπὸ προσώπου τοῦ συνεδρίου ὅτι κατηξιώθησαν ὑπὲρ τοῦ ὀνόματος ἀτιμασθῆναι·