The Catholic Defender: The Wisdom Of Gamaliel
“But a Pharisee in the council named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, held in honor by the people, stood up and ordered the men (Apostles) to be put outside for a while. And he said to them, Men of Israel, take care what you do with these men. For before these days Theudas arose, giving himself out to be somebody, and a number of men, about 400, joined him; but he was slain and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. After him Judas the Galilean arose in the days of the census and drew away some of the people after him; he also perished, and all who followed him were scattered. So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone; for if this plan or undertaking is of men, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God”!
Yes, when you oppose the Catholic Faith, you are really opposing God, perhaps unknowingly. During this time period of Jesus public Ministry, there were many looking for the Messiah. Many false messiahs were abounding and led people astray.
People such as Theudas and Judas the Galilean were two that Gamaliel refereed to specifically.
Mark 9:38-41, perhaps a follower of one such false prophet found in Jesus something that the false messiahs lacked. St. Mark states, “John said to him, Teacher, we saw a man casting out demons in your name, and we forbade him, because he was not following us. But Jesus said, Do not forbid him; for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon after to speak evil of me. For he that is not against us is for us. For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ, will by no means lose his reward”.
The Apostles recognized this man was not of their number and forbade him from working in Jesus name. This man perhaps a follower of Theudas did not know Jesus personally, but was acting from what he had observed.
St. Mark recognized that these false messiahs did not have the signs that Jesus had been known to do. This was still Pre-Church as the Lord was still instructing his Disciples.
The time was coming when Jesus would be sending the Catholic Church to the nations.
The Church would unite the Captives under the Lord’s command as it will preach the good news to all the nations.
St. Paul would add his experience with Gamaliel:
Paul addressed the people in these words: “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city. At the feet of Gamaliel I was educated strictly in our ancestral law and was zealous for God, just as all of you are today. I persecuted this Way to death, binding both men and women and delivering them to prison. Even the high priest and the whole council of elders can testify on my behalf. For from them I even received letters to the brothers and set out for Damascus to bring back to Jerusalem in chains for punishment those there as well.”
But something happens to St. Paul on the road not far from Damascus:
“On that journey as I drew near to Damascus, about noon a great light from the sky suddenly shone around me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ I replied, ‘Who are you, sir?’ And he said to me, ‘I am Jesus the Nazorean whom you are persecuting.’ My companions saw the light but did not hear the voice of the one who spoke to me. I asked, ‘What shall I do, sir?’ The Lord answered me, ‘Get up and go into Damascus, and there you will be told about everything appointed for you to do.’ Since I could see nothing because of the brightness of that light, I was led by hand by my companions and entered Damascus.”
Many are called by the Lord, but few are chosen (like St. Paul) to be apostles to serve the Lord. St. Paul was made an apostle by Jesus for our benefit, to give God’s grace through the Ministry of the Church. St. Paul himself would literally be led by the hand as an example for us, the importance to come before the Throne of God’s grace:
“A certain Ananias, a devout observer of the law, and highly spoken of by all the Jews who lived there, came to me and stood there and said, ‘Saul, my brother, regain your sight.’ And at that very moment I regained my sight and saw him. Then he said, ‘The God of our ancestors designated you to know his will, to see the Righteous One, and to hear the sound of his voice; for you will be his witness before all to what you have seen and heard. Now, why delay? Get up and have yourself baptized and your sins washed away, calling upon his name.’”
Gamaliel’s sound advice is a testament to the truth of the Catholic Faith as it has lasted 2,000 years. Every Catholic ordained shares in this apostolic benefit God ministers to His people. By accepting the Sacraments, we share in the great Mystery of faith handed down.
There will always be Theudas, Judas the Galilean, or other modern day groups who seek to impose their false interpretations, but the Catholic Faith will never fall.
O Almighty and Eternal God, look upon the Face of Thy Christ, and for love of Him Who is the eternal High-priest, have pity on Thy priests. Remember, O most compassionate God, that they are but weak and frail human beings. Stir up in them the grace of their vocation which is in them by the imposition of the Bishop’s hands. Keep them close to Thee, lest the enemy prevail against them, so that they may never do anything in the slightest degree unworthy of their sublime vocation. Amen.