3rd Sunday of Easter: The Need for Prophets

Acts of the Apostles is our only canonical version of the early growth of the Jesus-believing community (cf. the Gospels, where we have four accounts), and so it is immensely formative in the tradition of what we assume happened. That we count on the reliability of these events does not preclude our understanding that they are presented as stylized and intertextual, that is, where characters in Acts resemble Jesus, who himself resembles his earlier forebears. This observation is not to suggest that Peter and others did not do as Jesus had done or that he did not act as other biblical characters had done—and I am thinking here about prophetic and courageous resistance to abusive authority. But that the Scripture underlines it by re-using similar motifs makes the resemblance doubly striking, renders it actual and symbolic as well.

In today’s first reading, two disciples-become-leaders courageously refuse to obey or even to be intimidated by unjust and threatening authorities, as Jesus did, and as OT prophets did (as David’s prophet Nathan and Amos and Jeremiah resist their kings, among others). We are offered a deep well of such situations for our reflection, and are prompted among other things to wonder why religious and civic authorities (or those who combine both roles) so often require such resistance from prophets. I don’t think our way forward here is the sort of abstraction that says God’s rule is enough, we don’t need humans (a thing one hears surprisingly often). I think, rather, that what we can see when we probe both the biblical tradition and contemporary situations is that the authorities whom the prophets resist mistake their own position, their personal interests, and their limited will for something that is much larger and oriented in a completely different direction. There’s more to God’s project with monarchic Israel/Judah than what a King Jeroboam or the royal Jehoiakim or Zedekiah think will help their personal survival, and of course more to God’s dealings with the first-century Jews than their leaders we hear of in today’s episode can calculate. The same point can be examined for current Church leaders, in my opinion, and a similar sort of prophetic situation is present. What will courageous prophets do, yes. But also why is it so constantly necessary?

Advertisement

Barbara Green, O.P.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.

Advertisement

The latest from america

In cities across the country, local activists marched in support of a progressive agenda centered on economic justice, racial justice and immigrant rights.
Brandon SanchezJanuary 20, 2019
Pope Francis has suppressed the Ecclesia Dei Commission, a significant decision with consequences for the Holy See’s relations with the priestly Fraternity of St. Pius X.
Gerard O’ConnellJanuary 19, 2019
Photo: IMDB
A new Netflix miniseries brings out the story’s aspects of adventure and conflict, with occasionally pulse-pounding results.
Rob Weinert-KendtJanuary 19, 2019
Protestors march to support a U.N. anti-corruption commission in Guatemala City on Jan. 6. Photo by Jackie McVicar.
“What they are doing not only puts Guatemala at risk but the entire region. Bit by bit, for more than a year, they have been trying to divide us. The elections are at risk. We are six months away.”
Jackie McVicarJanuary 18, 2019