“So now I tell you, have nothing to do with these men, and let them go. For if this endeavor or this activity is of human origin, it will destroy itself. But if it comes from God, you will not be able to destroy them; you may even find yourselves fighting against God” (Acts 5:38-39)
Interestingly, in the apocryphal Acts of Pilate 5:1, Nicodemus make a similar plea to Pontius Pilate on Jesus’ behalf: “Let him alone and do not contrive any evil against him: if the signs he performs are of God, they will stand; but if they are of men, they will come to nothing.” We know that Nicodemus was a believer, and he is making a practical suggestion – giving Pilate an “out” from putting Jesus to death.
But in our text today, do not think Gamaliel is someone who might have insight into the truth of the Resurrection of Jesus and the truth of what the Apostles are proclaiming in the Temple. Think of Gamaliel’s advice as an ironic commentary on history, not as advice to be followed by Christian authorities in evaluating spiritual events like apparitions.
Gamaliel’s principle of having “nothing to do with these men” until their movement either dies out or is confirmed is not a Christian position but that of an unbelieving outsider. Can one just “wait and see” whether God is acting in or speaking to our time? What responsibility do we have to test the fruits and heed those words that correspond to the gospel and church teaching?
That presents a dilemma to us as individuals and us, collectively as Church. Think about the people of Assisi trying to figure out if Francis “comes from God.” Consider reported Marian apparitions, most which today are private revelations. Do they “come from God?” Are they exhortations to live the public revelation of Scripture and Tradition more urgently? Think about Our Lady of Medjugorje – it has been 40 years now without an official stance from the Catholic Church. Seems like we are in the wait-and-see mode.
The Medjugorje apparition messages contain five main requests: first, to pray the entire Rosary daily; second, to fast on Wednesdays and Fridays; third, to attend Mass as often as possible; fourth, to go to Confession at least monthly; and fifth, to read the Bible daily. Certainly, an exhortation to live the public revelation of Scripture and Tradition.
Great advice. It has been 2,000 year and the world has not been able to destroy Christianity. But from time-to-time, it seems we need reminders to “get busy.”