All the powerful came together against Christ “to do whatever God’s hand and plan had predestined to take place”
(read Acts 4:23-31)
The Holy Spirit who is love that flows from God to us is also the breath of our life as His children. Without Him, we are dead. The sense of our life is to continuously convert and acquire this Spirit. He came on the disciples at Pentecost and He is continuously at work in everything and everybody: in sinners in order to convert them, in the Apostles’ freedom in order that they may announce the Lord, in miracles in order to give credit to the Word and, eventually, in the prodigy of brotherly and filial life. He shows Himself forcefully in important moments, like this one (Cf. also 10:44ff) which is called “the little Pentecost.” After the first miracle and the arrest of Peter and John (3:1ff), the community experiences the first persecution. As soon as they were freed, they tell the brethren how they had confessed the Name of Jesus in front of those who had killed Him: the Spirit made them witnesses of the Resurrection.
After having acted and suffered as He had done, they now grasp the mystery of His passion. Not the head, but the experience in their flesh makes them understand reality. You can understand what food is if you eat it. Persecution, making them similar to the Crucified One, makes them understand Jesus’ cross: they see that what is happening to them today, in their flesh, is what happened to Him and vice versa. Their comprehension of the paschal mystery has been slow. In the beginning, there is opposition between Jesus’ death and resurrection: people have killed Him, “but” God has raised Him up. Afterwards, there is continuity: He is the Just Man who bore the evil of the world on Himself and, “because of this,” God has raised Him up. Eventually, there is identity: His cross is the sign of a love stronger than death, it “is” the glory that reveals God. At Calvary, in fact, evil is overcome together with its source: our false image of God.
Here, we have the key in order to read how God saves us not “from” but “within” our history that is so full of evil. We are the ones who do evil because we are enslaved by ignorance and fears. God neither wants evil nor puts up with it. He, however, respects our freedom, because it makes us similar to Him. But He also pays respects to His own freedom: He takes on Himself our evil and turns it into goodness. How? Here, in the original Greek text, God is called “despòtes” (despot), which means “head of the house.” The universe is His house and we, human beings, are members of His household, children of His own blood, all “free” and entitled to do whatever we want. He Himself, however, does what He wants i.e. to free us from the evil we keep doing to ourselves.
First agents of evil are the powerful of this earth who, feeling to be less than half of nothing, long, the same as we all do, to quench their thirst of having, dominating and appearing (Cf. 1 Jn. 2:16). We would like to be like God while, however, doing the opposite of what He does. God, in fact, is love who gives everything, puts Himself in the hands of everyone and is at the service of each one. The evil of egoism which is in us must come out of us; and God takes it to the cross.
Here, the disciples understand that, by means of the cross, God executes His salvific will. He, in fact, makes use of the greatest evil we can do – to kill God Himself! – in order to fulfill His loving plan: He gives His life as a gift to those who steal it from Him. Joseph tells His brothers: “As for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people may be kept alive as they are today” (Gn. 50:20). This understanding becomes invocation, discernment and gift of the Spirit that fills the place, the house. Thanks to the Spirit, the Upper Room is no longer a place of fear and of closeness, but of communion and love, that always rocks itself in order to shake out the disciples, sending them into the world. The fire that burns inside must light other fires. The cross of Jesus is salvation and gift of the Spirit, which becomes true again today in Jesus’ disciples who are persecuted. Persecution is an authentic Theology teacher: it makes us like our Master. The Church is always born by the martyrs’ blood, not by our power games with the powerful.