And when he had said this, he said to him,“Follow me”
In today’s first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, the apostles are brought before the Sanhedrin, questioned by the high priest and ordered to stop teaching in the name of Jesus. The Sanhedrin was like a supreme court, having final authority on matters of Jewish laws. We know from today’s account and others in the Acts of the Apostles that the apostles were interrogated, jailed, beaten, persecuted and martyred (except for St. John) for proclaiming and witnessing to Jesus Christ. How were these ordinary men able to do so? The answer is found in Acts5:30: The God of our ancestors raised Jesus, though you had him killed by hanging him on a tree. The power of the resurrected Christ enabled them to do so. Jesus Christ definitively conquered sin and death. The apostles no longer feared suffering and death, as they did before encountering the resurrected Christ. “Death is swallowed up in victory.” O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and sin gets it power from the law. But thanks be to God who has given us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1Cor15:54-57)
Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches, wisdom and strength, honor and glory and blessing. (Rev5:12) Each time we celebrate Mass, we join the angels and saints, praising, thanking and honoring Jesus Christ, who by the shedding of His Precious Blood, saved us from sin and death. The Lamb of God is made present in the Body and Blood on the altar at each Mass.
Like the apostles, we too are called to witness to Jesus Christ. Today’s gospel ends with Jesus telling his apostles: Follow me. Jesus speaks these words to us as well. We follow Jesus in the ordinary circumstances of each day. We follow Jesus with our cross. Whoever wishes to be my follower must deny his very self, take up
his cross each day, and follow in my steps. (Lk9:23) We carry our cross, whether it be a physical, emotional, psychological or spiritual suffering, with Jesus by our side, with Jesus’s strength – especially received in the sacraments of the Eucharist and Reconciliation. On our own, not possible – but with Jesus, all things are possible. In him who is the source of my strength I have strength for everything. (Phil4:13)
May the Risen Christ bless us always!