April 20, 2018
Saul, still breathing murderous threats against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, that, if he should find any men or women who belonged to the Way, he might bring them back to Jerusalem in chains. Acts_9:1-20
Jesus said, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the Flesh of the Son of Man and drink his Blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my Flesh and drinks my Blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. Jn_6:52-59
(To my nursing home brothers and sisters in the faith…)
Sometimes the most interesting part is the Journey!
It’s been a little more than a month since we last met, and a lot has happened: In our Church, we’ve progressed through the Passion of Holy Week and the Hope of Easter.
Jesus has arisen, alleluia!
And since His Easter Resurrection, He has revealed Himself to His disciples several times in our readings from the Book of Acts over the past couple weeks.
Then two weeks ago, yesterday, we were called to Cincinnati to welcome our new grandson, Adam, into the world. What a blessing! Thus, we’ve been away, but only in body. You have been spiritually with us all along!
And now, here we are again, in the very early Church, in the Acts of the Apostles, hearing about the miracles and the struggles the disciples had to deal with, as they began to witness to their Faith, as Jesus commanded.
And I’m always amazed at how much more I learn every time I study that story. For example: I remembered that Saul, this great persecutor of Christians, was a disciple himself of the Rabbi Gamaliel.
And I also remembered an incident in Acts where the leaders of the Sanhedrin had arrested Peter and his companions, and were so angry that they wanted to have them killed. But the Rabbi Gamaliel, who was a Pharisee, convinced them not to execute the Apostles, but rather, to see how the whole scene would play out, because from earlier experience, all of the self-proclaimed messiahs of the past, and their followers – wound up dispersed on their own.
So then I wondered why Saul, Gamaliel’s own student, would have been so strongly set against Jesus and the Apostles. And what I learned, was that within the Jewish Sanhedrin, or high priestly court, there were two different leaders of opposing philosophies.
The leader Hillel, believed that the Law should be interpreted to give the people priority over strict discipline: For example, if someone needed help on a Sabbath, Hillel would say that it wasn’t breaking the “no-work” rule to offer it. Something that Jesus would surely have argued in favor of.
Unfortunately Hillel was ousted by the Romans in favor of another leader by the name of Shammai, because Shammai catered to the Romans. But Shammai, as opposed to Hillel, was extremely fanatical about strictly following every detail of the Law of Moses, to the extent of even adding many more of his own laws.
And unlike Hillel, Shammai interpreted the Law of Moses to offer no compassion when it came to obedience . . . If the Law said “no-work,” that EXcluded – just about everything, but breathing.
So there were two schools of thought, just among the Pharisees, not to mention the Sadducees who went even further with their disbelief of anything supernatural, like: angels and Satan, like miracles and resurrection and even belief in a coming Messiah.
As it turned out, Gamaliel was Hillel’s grandson. And of course, he followed the school and the philosophies of his grandfather, as likely did Nicodemus.
So when we lump the Pharisees all into this one, nasty group religious KGB agents, it’s really not fair to all of them, because even Jesus seemed to get along with the Hillel schooled Pharisees.
Unfortunately, just like today, those with the louder voices always seemed to get their way.
And all of that brings us back to Saul!
You see, Saul, growing up in the school of Hillel, with Gamaliel as his tutor, somewhere in life, became so violently anti-Christian, that when he needed permission to go on a Christian ‘witch hunt,’ he didn’t go back to get the advice of his mentor, Gamaliel, he went instead directly to the High Priest, a Sadducee like Caiaphas, who was even more zealous against Jesus.
And little did Saul realize, that Jesus really admired his potential to be a “zealous Christian evangelist,” instead . . All it took was a little dance with blindness and another one of Jesus’ awesome miracles to boot.
You see, Jesus never lacked in giving us all kinds of miraculous signs: signs that would convert us; signs to strengthen our faith and even signs to test our human propriety, humility and flexibility . . . Eating human flesh and drinking blood?
But what if we, instead, looked at it as eating
Divine flesh and blood!
What if we looked at our consumption of
the Blessed Sacrament as a way of
becoming ONE with the Divine!
You see, beloved, sometimes
the most interesting part of life
is the Journey.
And once it’s all completed,
we just might wonder why
we never truly understood
(EXACTLY what Jesus told us).
We might just wonder why
so few people really did!
(Much of this reference info on the Jewish Sanhedrin came from an excellent summary in the following Link, entitled:
“What You Never Knew About the Pharisees”)
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