When they had brought them, they had them stand before the council. The high priest questioned them, saying, “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and you are determined to bring this man’s blood on us.” But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than any human authority. The God of our ancestors raised up Jesus, whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior that he might give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.”
When they heard this, they were enraged and wanted to kill them.
Psalm 34:2, 9, 17-20
My soul makes its boast in the Lord;
let the humble hear and be glad.
O fear the Lord, you his holy ones,
for those who fear him have no want.
When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears,
and rescues them from all their troubles.
The Lord is near to the brokenhearted,
and saves the crushed in spirit.
Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
but the Lord rescues them from them all.
He keeps all their bones;
not one of them will be broken.
The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks about earthly things. The one who comes from heaven is above all. He testifies to what he has seen and heard, yet no one accepts his testimony. Whoever has accepted his testimony has certified this, that God is true. He whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. The Father loves the Son and has placed all things in his hands. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but must endure God’s wrath.
Neuroscience has been proving what musicians, athletes, and all others trained in any discipline have always known to be true. Human beings perform as they have rehearsed. Our daily choices change our brains, forming and reinforcing neural pathways, which eases communication between our brains and our muscles. Our repeated actions physically become our easiest actions.
If we are changed physically by repetitive action, how much more so are we changed spiritually? When we choose to obey God, God sends his Holy Spirit upon us. We enter into a direct communion, synergy with God. The more we listen for God and obey God, his Spirit is with us, easing communication between God and ourselves. When we rehearse, or practice our faith, we are making our choice for God our repetitive action, and it changes us spiritually.
The apostles had the courage to stand before the high priest and the council, a horde of angry and violent men with their minds bent on killing them. They had this courage to not only stand in front of them, but to challenge them, directly telling them they would not obey their authority, but listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit instead. This is the courage we are all called to: to obey God and listen to his Holy Spirit, no matter what earthly power or pressure we may be facing. Sometimes that pressure may be external, as there are certainly many who oppose the visible exercise of Christian beliefs. Sometimes this pressure is internal, as we are all tempted to neglect our personal time in prayer or to opt for our own emotional reactions over God’s internal quiet and peace.
We have the choice every day to forge and reinforce these spiritual pathways. At the end of our lives, each of us will stand before God. Ultimately, each one of us will do as we have rehearsed. If we have practiced daily attentiveness to God, listening to God, obeying God, and falling upon his mercy for the times that we haven’t, that is exactly what we will do when we stand before him. But if we have practiced daily recoiling from God, be it in the form of self-reliance, overt resistance, or lack of believing in his love and mercy for us, then we will again recoil from him when we see him face to face. St. John writes in the Gospel that God sends his Holy Spirit without measure. Let us all take advantage of this grace and start or restart today in making our choice for God our repetitive action.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for the gift of your Son. Thank you for the gift of the Holy Spirit. May I always listen to the voice of your Son and cooperate with your Spirit. May I be a participant in speaking the words of God. Help me keep my mind on things above rather than on earth. Help me to choose you every day. Amen.