Friday, April 16, 2010


Today’s 1st reading (Acts 5:34-42) recounts the intervention of the Pharisee Gamaliel in the Sanhedrin’s debate about the apostles. Gamaliel was the most respected Jewish scholar in Jerusalem in the 2nd quarter of the 1st century AD. (In Acts 22:3, Saint Paul states that he himself was educated strictly in our ancestral law by Gamaliel).

Gamaliel’s intervention was to caution prudence in judging the apostles’ teaching, which (unlike some other apocalyptic movements) had thus far survived the death of its leader. "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” (Acts 5:38-39).

In a sense, Gamaliel was saying there is no quarreling with success! The persistence of the apostles, despite Jesus’ death, the success of their efforts as evidenced in the growth of their movement, are themselves signs of God’s favor and a validation of their efforts.

Gamaliel gave good advice. He encourages us to practice prudent restraint in responding to new ideas, not to dismiss them out of hand, but to wait and see where they lead and what kind of results they produce – in religious language, to know them by their fruits.

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