There is also something sinister which stems from the fact that freedom and tolerance are so often separated from truth. This is fueled by the notion, widely held today, that there are no absolute truths to guide our lives. – Pope Benedict XVI: (born 16 April 1927 was Pope of the Catholic Church from 2005 to 2013)
Scripture Text: (ACTS 5:34-42)
A Pharisee in the Sanhedrin named Gamaliel,
a teacher of the law, respected by all the people,
stood up, ordered the Apostles to be put outside for a short time,
and said to the Sanhedrin, "Fellow children of Israel,
be careful what you are about to do to these men.
Some time ago, Theudas appeared, claiming to be someone important,
and about four hundred men joined him, but he was killed,
and all those who were loyal to him
were disbanded and came to nothing.
After him came Judas the Galilean at the time of the census.
He also drew people after him,
but he too perished and all who were loyal to him were scattered.
So now I tell you,
have nothing to do with these men, and let them go.
For if this endeavor or this activity is of human origin,
it will destroy itself.
But if it comes from God, you will not be able to destroy them;
you may even find yourselves fighting against God."
They were persuaded by him.
After recalling the Apostles, they had them flogged,
ordered them to stop speaking in the name of Jesus,
and dismissed them.
So they left the presence of the Sanhedrin,
rejoicing that they had been found worthy
to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name.
And all day long, both at the temple and in their homes,
they did not stop teaching and proclaiming the Christ, Jesus.
In the first reading from Mass, the apostles are in some trouble for proclaiming the good news. The Sanhedrin want to shut this down: Stop them from talking about Jesus, stop the whole production. But a Pharisee tells a story about some other prophets who were thought to be important, but when they died the movement died with them. Without the prophet there was nothing left. The followers disappeared when there was no one left to follow. If there’s nothing to this, he said, it should die down like the others. The movement will disappear of its own accord like the others did, if Jesus was like the others.
But if there really is something to this, if Jesus really is God, then nothing on earth can stop it. Not the Sanhedrin. Not torturing and killing the followers. No laws or penalties can stop the force of God. If this is really real, then it will surely continue no matter what they try to do to stop it, and they will be fighting against God himself. The logical thing to do is to wait it out and see what happens. If there’s nothing to it, it will die out on its own. If there’s something to it, they should not be on the wrong side.
The false prophets of Jesus’s day and today have no real backing. They were not God. Their “ministries” die with them. No one today has heard of Theudas. Everyone has heard of Jesus. The signs and miracles were real and palpable. This is the real thing. And despite the attempts from the Sanhedrin and others from the time of the crucifixion through today to destroy the movement, it’s still going strong. Nothing can stop it. The false prophets are less than footnotes in history. There was nothing to them, and their stories died out. But Jesus performed real miracles and really rose from the dead. Two thousand years later we continue to tell his story and live his words. There is something to this, and it won’t die, and we should not be on the wrong side.