APOSTOLIC SHREWDNESS

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

   “But when Paul perceived that one part were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, ‘Brethren, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees; with respect to the hope and the resurrection of the dead I am on trial.’ And when he had said this, a dissension arose between the Pharisees and the Sadducees; and the assembly was divided. For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, nor angel, nor spirit; but the Pharisees acknowledge them all. Then a great clamor arose; and some of the scribes of the Pharisees’ party stood up and contended, ‘We find nothing wrong in this man. What if a spirit or an angel spoke to him?’” (Acts 23: 6-9)

 

     I dare say, St. Paul is quite shrewd here, pitting one part of the Sanhedrin, the Sadducees, against another, the Pharisees. He suddenly claims that he’s on trial for being a Pharisee and “a son of Pharisees,” who embraced “the hope and the resurrection of the dead.” But St. Paul’s “hope” and also faith in “the resurrection of the dead” was quite distinct from that of his contemporary Pharisees, in that it was based on faith in the risen Lord, Jesus Christ. And that’s why he was on trial, as he well knew. But at this point, he “plays” the members of the Sanhedrin as described above, and it saves his life, (for the time being), to continue his mission and to “also testify in Rome” (Acts 23: 11).

 

     As we enter the final stretch of our journey to Pentecost, or the “birthday of the Church,” I’m thinking about what it means, that the Church is “apostolic,” as we profess it to be in our Creed. One of the meanings of this word, “apostolic,” is that it shares the approach of the Holy Apostles. And that approach includes being “shrewd as snakes, and innocent as doves” (Mt 10: 16). As Church, we are not called always to roll over and play dead, nor to be “flat” and uncreative in character, in the face of our opponents. How delightful is that? Holy Apostles, pray to God for us!

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