Reflection materials excerpted from the Chinese edition of the New Testament with Lectio Divina (by Claretian Publications), translated by Fountain of Love and Life
Reflection: When there is a need to obey God instead of obeying people, how can we avoid provoking others or become disobedient? How can we distinguish between what is from God and what arises out of personal interest?
Prayer: Gamaliel suggests people to patiently discern the mystery of God's work. Ask God to grant you wisdom, so that you can better understand God's plan, especially regarding His plan for your life and the community to which you belong.
Action: When you struggle with all kinds of difficult issues, try to live out Gamaliel's suggestion.
Acts of the Apostles
Ananias and Sapphira.
A man named Ananias, however, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property. 2 He retained for himself, with his wife's knowledge, some of the purchase price, took the remainder, and put it at the feet of the apostles. 3 But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart so that you lied to the holy Spirit and retained part of the price of the land? 4 While it remained unsold, did it not remain yours? And when it was sold, was it not still under your control? Why did you contrive this deed? You have lied not to human beings, but to God.” 5When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last, and great fear came upon all who heard of it. 6The young men came and wrapped him up, then carried him out and buried him.
7 After an interval of about three hours, his wife came in, unaware of what had happened. 8 Peter said to her, “Tell me, did you sell the land for this amount?” She answered, “Yes, for that amount.” 9 Then Peter said to her, “Why did you agree to test the Spirit of the Lord? Listen, the footsteps of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” 10 At once, she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. When the young men entered they found her dead, so they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11 And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things.
Signs and Wonders of the Apostles.
Many signs and wonders were done among the people at the hands of the apostles. They were all together in Solomon's portico. 13 None of the others dared to join them, but the people esteemed them. 14 Yet more than ever, believers in the Lord, great numbers of men and women, were added to them. 15 Thus they even carried the sick out into the streets and laid them on cots and mats so that when Peter came by, at least his shadow might fall on one or another of them.d 16A large number of people from the towns in the vicinity of Jerusalem also gathered, bringing the sick and those disturbed by unclean spirits, and they were all cured.
Trial before the Sanhedrin.
Then the high priest rose up and all his companions, that is, the party of the Sadducees, and, filled with jealousy,e 18 laid hands upon the apostles and put them in the public jail. 19 But during the night, the angel of the Lord opened the doors of the prison, led them out, and said, 20 “Go and take your place in the temple area, and tell the people everything about this life.” 21When they heard this, they went to the temple early in the morning and taught. When the high priest and his companions arrived, they convened the Sanhedrin, the full senate of the Israelites, and sent to the jail to have them brought in. 22But the court officers who went did not find them in the prison, so they came back and reported, 23 “We found the jail securely locked and the guards stationed outside the doors, but when we opened them, we found no one inside.” 24 When they heard this report, the captain of the temple guard and the chief priests were at a loss about them, as to what this would come to. 25 Then someone came in and reported to them, “The men whom you put in prison are in the temple area and are teaching the people.” 26 Then the captain and the court officers went and brought them in, but without force, because they were afraid of being stoned by the people.
27 When they had brought them in and made them stand before the Sanhedrin, the high priest questioned them, 28 “We gave you strict orders [did we not?] to stop teaching in that name. Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and want to bring this man's blood upon us.” 29 But Peter and the apostles said in reply, “We must obey God rather than men. 30 The God of our ancestors raised Jesus, though you had him killed by hanging him on a tree. 31 God exalted him at his right hand as leader and savior to grant Israel repentance and forgiveness of sins. 32 We are witnesses of these things, as is the holy Spirit that God has given to those who obey him.”
33 When they heard this, they became infuriated and wanted to put them to death. 34 But a Pharisee in the Sanhedrin named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, respected by all the people, stood up, ordered the men to be put outside for a short time, 35 and said to them, “Fellow Israelites, be careful what you are about to do to these men. 36 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. 37 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. 38 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. 39 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. 40 After recalling the apostles, they had them flogged, ordered them to stop speaking in the name of Jesus, and dismissed them.n 41So they left the presence of the Sanhedrin, rejoicing that they had been found worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name. 42 And all day long, both at the temple and in their homes, they did not stop teaching and proclaiming the Messiah, Jesus.
Teaching from Fr. Francis Ching (Traditional and Simplified Chinese subtitles are available):
- Their sin lies not in their unwillingness to donate all the proceeds from the sale of their property but in bearing false witness and lying to the Spirit of Truth.
- Peter explains Holy Spirit = God by putting these two comments together: “Lie to the Holy Spirit” (5:3) and “You did not lie to us but to God” (5:4)
The Apostles Heal Many; are Arrested and Released
- “Signs and wonders”: has been used many times in the Acts (2:43, 4:30, 6:8, 14:3, 15:12); and has been used frequently in the exodus from Egypt (Ex 7:3, 11:10; Deu 6:22, 26:8). > This is the Church's first key new beginning: under the leadership of Moses, the Church of OT begins in “signs and wonders”; in the same way, under the leadership of the Apostles, the Church of NT begins in “signs and wonders”.
- Shadow of Peter: Those who work truly for the glory of God will not take pride in the fruits of their own labour, but see God's might in the work that seems impossible in human's perspective and glorify God. Only the false catechists will glorify themselves.
- “… they were considered worthy to suffer dishonour for the sake of the name”: very often hatred, antagonism, or violence results from one's unwillingness to be “dishonoured” and striving for “fairness”. WWJD? Jesus also strives for justice; He is not afraid of death and oppression. The Church teaches that one should avoid violence means to solve problems. One should follow the examples of the Apostles in their joyful suffering for Christ.
Read 5:34-39 and footnote #6 in the Chinese bible. Who is Gamaliel? Why was he remembered favorably in Christian antiquity?
“We must obey God rather than man” (Acts 5:29) – This is the foundational premise of civil disobedience. It insists that believers cannot submit to human authorities, institutions, and laws that contradict the laws of God. Part of the Christian mission is to bring civil legislation in line with divine law and when this proves unsuccessful, to make a courageous stand in favor of the gospel. Assume that you are a Chinese citizen living in Mainland China and are asked by government authority to abort your second child. How would you react to this government order? See if the following CCC teaching is useful for your decision-making:
2242 The citizen is obliged in conscience not to follow the directives of civil authorities when they are contrary to the demands of the moral order, to the fundamental rights of persons or the teachings of the Gospel. Refusing obedience to civil authorities, when their demands are contrary to those of an upright conscience, finds its justification in the distinction between serving God and serving the political community. “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.” “We must obey God rather than men”: When citizens are under the oppression of a public authority which oversteps its competence, they should still not refuse to give or to do what is objectively demanded of them by the common good; but it is legitimate for them to defend their own rights and those of their fellow citizens against the abuse of this authority within the limits of the natural law and the Law of the Gospel.
Acts of the Apostles
Ananias and Sapphira. / Signs and Wonders of the Apostles. / Trial before the Sanhedrin.
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