We learn in the Gospel of this weekend that Jesus gave his apostles the gift of peace. When trying to describe this gift of peace and what peace is, we learn that it is not a lack of disagreement and is more than a feeling of tranquility. When we discover that Jesus used the word shalom and that it means the fullness of the messianic blessing which is salvation, our understanding radically shifts. This gift of peace is a special gift from God and it suffuses the apostle’s hearts on the night before Jesus died.
The first reading is a rather practical reading which causes us to understand the difference between peace and the naturally occurring disagreements of daily life. We come to understand that harmony among and between people is absolutely not uniform. In this reading also is the growing question of who can belong to the Church. This is all set to explode in the believing community at that time. People who are Gentiles are pleading to follow Christ and join the church. The questions and refusals are many, but there must be room for these good and decent Gentile people. Some want to offer lots of conditions for the Gentiles to join and set standards for membership. Certainly, all this is fraught with peril and confusion. In this reading, we discover that some require that those who convert must follow the Mosaic Law and also if male, be circumcised. Paul and Barnabas and those who have been preaching to the gentiles are dead set against these requirements.
The early Church reached a clear and practical decision. The early followers were influenced by the power of the Holy Spirit who reminded them of all that Jesus said and did for them. The letter that Judas and Silas carried back to Jerusalem was a powerful declaration. The letter was polite and gentle, but it was also a masterful statement. The letter stated the problem and gave a clear solution. This decision was brought by those whose mission and work was and would be to preach to the Gentiles. Note that the decision by the group was influenced by the power of the Holy Spirit. The decision was not to impose unnecessary burdens and allow people to focus on the message and actions of Jesus. Everyone was also to respect those who are believers who also follow the Mosaic Law.
The early Church acknowledged its roots in Judaism but also allowed itself to be open to the whole world. Indeed this is what a universal church means. This meeting in Jerusalem after a period of time was considered the first Council of the Church and is called “the Council of Jerusalem”. This small group of believers recognized that the church was meant for everyone and that it was universal in mission. Our second reading with its vision reveals symbolically what that critical decision meant. The early church is a city aglow with heavenly light and this city has 12 gates open for everyone. Bear in mind from this week’s readings that this all began with the gift of God’s peace and the promise of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. We need to have a greater vision in our faith and al-low it to lead us to share the greatness of our God.
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