I would like to touch briefly on the passage from the Acts of the Apostles, which we read in the liturgy of this Third Sunday of Easter. This text says that the first preaching of the Apostles in Jerusalem filled the cities with the news that Jesus had truly risen, according to the Scriptures, and he was the Messiah foretold by the Prophets. The chief priests and the rulers of the city tried to nip the community of Christian believers in the bud. They imprisoned the Apostles, ordering them not to teach in his name. Peter and the other eleven answered, however, “We must obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised up Jesus … exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior … And we are witnesses to these things and so is the Holy Spirit[.](Acts 5:29-32)” So they scourged the Apostles and commanded them not to speak again in the name of Jesus And they went, “rejoic[ing] that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name [of Jesus]. (Acts 5:41)”
And I ask myself: “Where were the first disciples the strength for this their testimony?” Not only: whence came to them the courage to preach and the joy of preaching, notwithstanding the obstacles and violence [they faced]? Do not forget that the Apostles were simple men. They were neither scribes, nor teachers of the law, nor of the priestly class. How could they, with [all] their limits, and opposed by the authorities, fill Jerusalem with their teaching (cf. Acts 5:28)? Only the presence of the Risen Lord with them, and the action of the Holy Spirit can explain this. It was the Lord, who was with them, and the Spirit, who moved them to preach: [this] explains this extraordinary episode. Their faith was based on so powerful and personal an experience of Christ crucified and risen, that they were not afraid of anything or anyone, and even saw their persecution as a badge of honor, that made them capable of following in the footsteps of Jesus and to be like Him, bearing witness [to Him] with their lives.
This history of the first Christian community tells us something very important, which applies to the Church in every age, and so to us: when a person truly knows Jesus Christ and believes in Him, one experiences His presence and the power of His Resurrection in one’s life, and one cannot help but communicate this experience. If it encounters misunderstanding or adversity, one behaves like Jesus in His Passion: one responds with love and with the power of truth.
As we pray the Regina Caeli together, let us ask the help of the Blessed Virgin Mary that the Church worldwide might proclaim the Resurrection of the Lord with frankness and courage, and bear effective witness through signs of brotherly love – for brotherly love is the most intimate witness we can bear to [the truth] that Jesus is alive and with us, that Jesus is Risen. Let us pray especially for Christians who suffer persecution – [and] in these times, there are many Christians who suffer persecution, a great many, in many countries: let us pray for them from our heart, with love, that they might feel the living and comforting presence of the Risen Lord.