There’s that old kitschy question, “If you were arrested and accused of being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?” As we’ve been hearing in our first reading ever since Easter began, that question is becoming a real source of anxiety for the Apostles. The Acts of the Apostles tells us of a group of Apostles who have been fortified by their experience of the Risen Lord and have finally come to enough of an understanding of the Gospel that they can really preach it with all their heart and soul and strength. The problem with that is that when they preach that way, it attracts the attention of the Jewish authorities, the very people who put Jesus to death. And now they are seeking the opportunity to put the Apostles to death also.
Hearing today’s Gospel, Jesus is speaking early on in his life and ministry. We see that, even early on, Jesus was warning his disciples that testifying to the Truth is going to come with a cost. They may not be believed, but those who do believe will have the great gift of eternal life. He says: “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God remains upon him.”
It’s easy enough for me to tell you that we are all expected to preach the Gospel, all of us who have been baptized and saved and redeemed by the blood of our Lord. It’s easy enough for you to enthusiastically take up that call and preach the Gospel in what you say but even more in what you do. But when the rubber meets the road, and there is a cost to it, will we remain faithful? Will we preach the word when it puts us at odds with family members, or threatens our professional standing or prospects for advancement at work? Will we preach the word when it is inconvenient, or when we are tested in our faith? The Apostles came to know that that was exactly what they were called to do, and now it is up to us.
We must be able to say with Peter, “We must obey God rather than men.” We must have the courage to testify to the truth of the Gospel at all times, even when it’s hard, knowing that as the Psalmist tells us today, “The Lord hears the cry of the poor.”