The First reading today speaks of freedom in the Lord, of the Gospel being there to set people free for the godly life, and of the Church’s responsibility for ensuring that religious customs and practices not be allowed to get in the way of a culture’s response to the Lord.
The Council of Jersualem had its go at establishing that freedom. Some of the Church, and some of Israel, would have been offended by this removing of old norms; some would surely have wanted them to go further; and others – not having known the living God – would be bewildered and maybe amused at the whole thing!
The Church’s pastoral ministry in favour of the faith continues, amidst controversy, and in face of indifference.
As does the challenge to us, as individuals and communities, to allow ourselves to be saved by God, by our knowledge of him and our response to him.
Human beings can respond to God, move to God, in the Church and out of it. At least we can respond in or out of the visible Church. What is important is that we are helped to know God – in religion, and in silence, in nature, in all that is – work of his hands. And the Church is – above all – called to the service of that universal knowing of God, that all may be helped to love him and respond to him.
Some men came down from Judaea and taught the brothers, ‘Unless you have yourselves circumcised in the tradition of Moses you cannot be saved.’ This led to disagreement, and after Paul and Barnabas had had a long argument with these men it was arranged that Paul and Barnabas and others of the church should go up to Jerusalem and discuss the problem with the apostles and elders.
Then the apostles and elders decided to choose delegates to send to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas; the whole church concurred with this. They chose Judas known as Barsabbas and Silas, both leading men in the brotherhood, and gave them this letter to take with them:
‘The apostles and elders, your brothers, send greetings to the brothers of pagan birth in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia. We hear that some of our members have disturbed you with their demands and have unsettled your minds. They acted without any authority from us; and so we have decided unanimously to elect delegates and to send them to you with Barnabas and Paul, men we highly respect who have dedicated their lives to the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Accordingly we are sending you Judas and Silas, who will confirm by word of mouth what we have written in this letter. It has been decided by the Holy Spirit and by ourselves not to saddle you with any burden beyond these essentials: you are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols; from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from fornication. Avoid these, and you will do what is right. Farewell.’
- What are the obstacles to deeper knowledge of God in your church?
- In your place of work or recreation?
- In your family?
- In you?
Clouds at sunset, Marseille. (c) 2013, Allen Morris