Faith: A Lot of Nerve
The first reading from Acts of the Apostles takes place right after the disciples received the gifts of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Peter, the apostle who had denied knowing Jesus before he died, now comes out and accuses the crowd of killing Jesus, “using lawless men to crucify him” (Acts 2:23). Considering that he was outnumbered three thousand to one, it took a lot of nerve. So the Spirit gave him the courage to face that crowd. But he did more than just stand up to the people. He offered them forgiveness and hope. He asked them to repent, but not just profess a rejection of sin. What we call repentance, in Peter’s time meant a change of heart away from sin and toward a new way of acting or believing. He offered them the same gift of the Spirit that he and the disciples had received. As Peter says in our second reading, “free from sin, [they] might live for righteousness” (1 Peter 2:24). We too can make a change of heart. We can turn away from selfishness and begin to love as Jesus did. We can relinquish anger and begin to forgive. We can put aside fear and boldly proclaim our faith.
Peter also shows us another gift of the Spirit—the ability to suffer for doing good. That also takes a lot of nerve. It’s hard enough to suffer for our sins; who wants to suffer for doing good? Yet that is just what Jesus did for us. It is what all disciples are called to do. Following the example of Jesus on the cross, we accept the suffering that comes to us. It may be ridicule for expressing our faith, the pain of losing someone we love, or the eventual pain of dying ourselves. We accept pain because we love the Lord and so love others enough to bear the pain of helping them.
As Jesus became flesh through the power of the Holy Spirit, so the same Spirit shows us that Jesus is present today in his disciples, in the poor, the homeless, the sick and dying. Let us ask the Spirit to help us repent from selfishness to a new life of love for God and our neighbor.
Tom Schmidt, Copyright © J. S. Paluch Co.