Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Miracle at the Beautiful Gate

Reading N°4 in the History of the Catholic Church

Fr. Fernand Mourret, S.S.

The Apostles preached with extraordinary success. A few days after the baptism of the three thousand Pentecostal converts, two thousand persons joined the Church following a miracle which is related in the Acts of the Apostles.

Saints Peter and John Healing the Lame Man
Nicholas Poussin (1594-1665)
It was about three o'clock in the afternoon. Peter and John had gone up to the Temple to pray:
A certain man who was lame from his mother's womb, was carried: whom they laid every day at the gate of the Temple, which is called Beautiful, that he might ask alms of them that went into the Temple. He, when he had seen Peter and John about to go into the Temple, asked to receive an alms. But Peter with John, fastening his eyes upon him, said: "Look upon us." But he looked earnestly upon them, hoping that he should receive something of them. But Peter said: "Silver and gold I have none; but what I have, I give thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, arise and walk." And taking him by the right hand, he lifted him up, and forthwith his feet and soles received strength. And he leaping up stood and walked and went in with them into the Temple, walking and praising God. And they knew him, that it was he who sat begging alms at the Beautiful Gate of the Temple; and they were filled with wonder and amazement at that which had happened to him. And as he held Peter and John, all the people ran to them to the porch which is called Solomon's, greatly wondering. 
But Peter seeing, made answer to the people: "Ye men of Israel, why wonder you at this? or why look you upon us, as if by our strength or power we had made this man to walk? The God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath glorified His Son Jesus, whom you indeed delivered up and denied before the face of Pilate, when he judged He should be released. But you denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you. But the author of life you killed, whotm God hath raised from the dead, of which we are witnesses. And in the faith of His name, this man whom you have seen and known, hath His name strengthened; and the faith which is by Him hath given this perfect soundness in the sight of you all. And now, brethren, I know that you did it through ignorance, as did also your rulers. But those things which God before had showed by the mouth of all the prophets, that His Christ should suffer, He hath so fulfilled. Be penitent, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out. That when the times of refreshment shall come from the presence of the Lord, and He shall send Him who hath been preached unto you, Jesus Christ, whom heaven indeed must receive, until the times of the restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of His holy prophets, from the beginning of the world. [...] To you first God, raising up His Son, hath sent Him to bless you; that everyone may convert himself from his wickedness."[1]
The Apostle was still speaking when the priests who were on duty in the Temple arrived. They were accompanied by a group of Sadducees. The disciples of Christ had no more bitter enemies than these sectaries, one of whose principal tenets was the denial of the resurrection of the dead. Upon hearing the doctrine of survival being preached, not merely as a hope, but as a truth established by the Resurrection of Christ, they became furiously angry. They remarked to the priests that addressing the people in the porch of the house of God without commission from the hierarchical authority was an act of culpable boldness. To seize the two Apostles and hurry them off to prison was the work of a moment. It was evening, too late for a trial, and hence further proceedings were postponed to the next day. But many who heard Peter's discourse believed in Christ. The infant Church of Jerusalem was now made up of five thousand men.

On the following day, the leaders of the people, the ancients and the scribes, met together. In this gathering were to be seen the High Priest Annas,[2] Caiphas, John, and Alexander.[3] In full numbers, the court assembled which had but recently condemned the Master; it would now try the disciples.

The judges, placing Peter and John in their midst, asked: "By what power or by what name have you done this?"[4] The scene, despite its simplicity, was one of unparalleled importance. For the first time, the lowly disciples of Christ, "illiterate and ignorant men,"[5] stood in the presence of those hostile powers of which their Master had given them a glimpse. But the heavenly aid which had been promised did not fail them. The presiding officer of the Sanhedrin did not dare say "miracle" or "cure." He called the prodigy "this."

Saints Peter and John before the Sanhedrin
The Acts tell us that Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, turned a simple and direct look upon his judges, and said to them:
Ye princes of the people and ancients, hear! If we this day are examined concerning the good deed done to the infirm man, by what means he hath been made whole, be it known to you all and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God hath raised from the dead, even by Him this man standeth here before you whole. This is the stone which was rejected by you the builders, which is become the head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in any other. For there is no other name under heaven given to men, whereby we must be saved."[6]
Seeing the constancy of Peter and of John, understanding that they were illiterate and ignorant men, they wondered. And they knew then that they had been with Jesus. Seeing the man also who had been healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it. But they commanded them to go aside out of the council; and they conferred among themselves. [...] And calling them, they charged them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus.[7]
To impose silence on the two Apostles, to hinder the divulging of a fact which glorified the name of Jesus - such was the only penalty which the persecuting despots found.

But Peter, aided by the Holy Ghost, did not yield. He replied: "If it be just in the sight of God, to hear you rather than God, judge ye. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard." The Non possumus, so often repeated by Peter's successors before the powers of this world, was heard for the first time in the precincts of a court. The religious chiefs of Jerusalem might well, on that day, have convinced themselves that a new power had arisen on earth. The Master had said: "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's; and to God, the things that are God's."

The members of the Sanhedrin did not know what to do with the Apostles. "They, threatening, sent them away, not finding how they might punish them, because of the people; for all men glorified what had been done, in that which had come to pass."[8]


[1] Acts 3:1-26.
[2] A long time before, the Romans had removed Annas from the office of High Priest and had bestowed it upon Caiphas. But the Jews considered this office inalienable; and no real Jew would concede that any foreign power had a right to remove the High Priest. Annas, therefore, retained the title of High Priest, although he no longer performed the duties of the office.
[3] Acts 4:5 f.
[4] Acts 4:7.
[5] Acts 4:13.
[6] Acts 4:8-12.
[7] Acts 4:13-18.
[8] Acts 4:21.


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