Acts 15: 7-21
John 15: 9-11
Today’s reading from the Acts gives us a model for decision making in the face of conflict and dispute. A drama is unfolding here for the early followers of Jesus. As a consequence of their preaching Gentiles are converting and seeking Baptism. The question arises as to how much of the Jewish law they should be asked to take on board. Questions around circumcision, diet and other rituals arise. Paul and Barnabas decide to go up to Jerusalem for dialogue with Peter, James and the elders. They resolved the issue by listening to one another, searched for the signs of the Spirit and had recourse to the Scriptures. Here we have a model for discernment and decision making.
There is a recognition that conversion is God’s work, not that of the preacher or the believer, and God brings this conversion about by giving the Spirit, not by requiring the person to practice certain rituals. In our times there is no absence of conflict with disputes about liturgy, ritual, inclusion and exclusion. We might even ask, who are the Gentiles today? Many people experience exclusion from the community of believers, because for a whole number of reasons, they don’t fit with the expectations of those holding the key!
The real key is spelt out in the very short Gospel for today. ‘As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. Remain in my love.’ Love has to guide our actions and decisions. Love calls us to listen, to include, to welcome and when people experience that sense of belonging their faith grows, they are able to contribute to the community, a community that ‘proclaims his marvellous deeds to the all the nations’.
Let us pray that we will engage in respectful listening, dialogue and discernment and find a path that respects difference and fosters unity in the family of God.
Sr. Brigid Murphy CP
Sisters of the Cross & Passion,