Today’s first reading reminded me of a Chinese proverb: “Just as tall trees are known by their shadows, so are good men known by their enemies.”
The disciples had powerful enemies—after all, they were the same ones who had Jesus crucified—the Sanhedrin. And in today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles, it’s apparent that the Apostles’ acts were driving the Sanhedrin nuts. Jesus’ blood was on their hands and now these followers of the man they killed were keeping his memory alive. Their warning to stop preaching in his name only encouraged the disciples because they knew that these enemies gave them more credibility. As our reading states, “they left the presence of the Sanhedrin, rejoicing that they had been found worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name.”
Rejoicing for being dishonored? This is another example of God’s ways not being ours. These men, inspired by the Holy Spirit, knew what they had to do. The Spirit moved them to understand that what they did and said now would have everlasting effect on generations to come. They would spread the word of God, made immortal by one man’s death and resurrection.
And it was this resurrected man who gave aid and comfort to the Sanhedrin’s enemies. Today’s gospel reading shows Jesus once again feeding his disciples. This wasn’t the last supper but a first breakfast, a kind of celebration of their mission to be fishers of men. In fact it was a launch. Jesus was entrusting them with his earthly mission and sending them out into a world of enemies. They would win many converts, but they knew their remaining enemies would give their message extra power. Most of them would suffer and die at the hands of those enemies. Imagine having the courage to spread Christianity’s convictions—especially Peter, the one who denied Christ three times for fear of being associated with him. That Peter died with Jesus and was reborn with Christ’s resurrection.
We are all born into a sinful human nature, which is the enemy of the person each of us is called to be. Jesus strengthens us to defeat that enemy, and by our victory, make known who we really are.