When the court officers had brought the Apostles in
and made them stand before the Sanhedrin,
the high priest questioned them,
“We gave you strict orders did we not,
to stop teaching in that name.
Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching
and want to bring this man’s blood upon us.”
But Peter and the Apostles said in reply,
“We must obey God rather than men.
The God of our ancestors raised Jesus,
though you had him killed by hanging him on a tree.
God exalted him at his right hand as leader and savior
to grant Israel repentance and forgiveness of sins.
We are witnesses of these things,
as is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.”
When they heard this,
they became infuriated and wanted to put them to death.
5:28 blood upon us: Bloodguilt for the condemnation and death of Jesus rested on the head of Jewish and Roman authorities (4:27). Though degrees of personal and individual guilt are known to God alone, collective responsibility for this outrage was accepted by the frenzied mob in Jerusalem that coerced Pilate to have him crucified (Mt 27:24–26; CCC 597).
5:29 obey God rather than men: The foundational premise of civil disobedience. It insists that believers cannot submit to human authorities, institutions, and laws that contradict the laws of God (Wis 6:1–3; Mk 7:8–13). Part of the Christian mission is to bring civil legislation in line with divine law and, when this proves unsuccessful, to make a courageous stand in favor of the gospel. In this episode, the mandate of Jesus to preach the gospel (1:8) overrides the charge of the Sanhedrin to keep silent (4:18; CCC 450, 2242).
5:30 on a tree: A reference to crucifixion, described in terms of Deut 21:22.
A Christian should conform his behavior to God’s law, “Man has in his heart a law inscribed by God. His dignity lies in observing this law, and by it he will be judged” (Rom 2:15–16). His conscience is man’s most secret core, and his sanctuary. There he is alone with God, whose voice echoes in his depths.
Like the eye, conscience is designed to enable a person to see, but it needs light from outside (God’s law and the Church’s guidance) to discover religious and moral truths and properly appreciate them. Without that help man simply tires himself out in his search as he seeks only himself and forgets about good and evil, and his conscience becomes darkened by sin and moral opportunism.
A right conscience, which always goes hand in hand with moral prudence, will help a Christian to obey the law like a good citizen and also to take a stand against any unjust laws which may be proposed or enacted. It is not enough for good Christians to profess privately the teaching of the Gospel and the Church regarding human life, the family, education, freedom etc. They should realize that these are subjects of crucial importance for the welfare of their country, and they should strive, using all the usual means at their disposal, to see that the laws of the State are supportive of the common good.
May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.