Image: Bear Rock, Tulita
It takes quite a few years of formal education to become a priest. Yet in all my years at school nobody once taught me how to change the track on a snowmobile or how to set a net under the ice of a frozen river. These are things I have been learning since arriving in the north and I am in awe at the many skills that the people have for making their living on the land. It’s not that I am ungrateful for the education I received, but in our readings today we find that formal education is not everything and, when it comes to sharing the Gospel, it certainly does not take a degree in theology to be an expert witness for Christ.
The reading from Acts continues the story of Peter and John who, having healed a man of his disability and giving credit to Christ, now stand before the priests, accused of blasphemy. The authorities become frustrated because standing before them are two, “uneducated and ordinary men.” Yet, try as they might, they cannot build a case against them. Speaking boldly, Peter witnesses to the resurrection of Jesus and calls upon the crowds to repent of their wrongdoings and believe in Christ, and thousands do.
Not being able to charge them with any crime the powers-that-be try instead to silence the two evangelists, threatening them with vague notions of what might happen if they keep spreading their message. Undeterred, Peter and John again seize the upper hand arguing that if it came to bowing to empty threats of the local authorities or following the command of their Lord the choice was simple, “we cannot keep from speaking about what we have seen and heard.” With that the grumbling priests set them free and they returned to their friends rejoicing in what God was doing in their midst.
For many people in small, isolated northern communities, advanced education at college or university has never been an option. Regardless of this seeming limitation, more and more “ordinary” people are rising up and showing extraordinary courage and wisdom as they stand strong in the face of government neglect and corporate exploitation, witnessing for the protection of their faith and culture and the land on which they live.
Sadly, these voices do not always prevail. As of old, the words of today’s prophets still often go unheeded. In the Gospel for today Mark shares that the very first person Jesus reveals himself to is Mary Magdalene. Despite this honor Mary’s voice is dismissed by the disciples who refuse to believe her account. They are later rebuked by Jesus for being faithless and unbelieving.
It is not always about a loud voice for justice or dramatic public displays of resistance to which we are called. It is the quiet acts of perseverance and faith that touch so many lives and are the truly positive signs and witness to the Gospel. Through consistent faithfulness and small, positive actions, great changes can take place that often leave the highly educated and those in authority confounded and wondering what just happened under their noses.