This morning, our priest had an interesting take on the readings. He focused in on the first reading (Acts 15:1-2, 22-29), and started from the question of how communities that are just starting out handle their first conflict. In this case, we see the Apostles considering the divisive question of how to handle Gentiles who want to become Christian–do they first need to adhere to Jewish law, even though Judaism isn’t really involved in seeking out converts, but Jesus said to make disciples of all the nations? If so, do they need to follow all of the law, especially since there were beginning to be rifts between the new Christian community and the Jews?
The First Council of Jerusalem, as the deliberations came to be called, settled the question the way that Paul and Barnabas had proposed, not requiring Gentiles to follow the Jewish law before becoming Christian. But rather than declaring Paul and Barnabas “winners” of the council, the real winners were the Holy Spirit and the early Christian community. Here’s why: The Holy Spirit had manifested Himself in the Gentiles even before they received baptism. Clearly, God wanted, and still wants, people to convert to him, and will not place unnecessary obstacles in their path. The council recognized this, and made the decision to accord with the will of God. Further, the community won through their obedience to God’s will. By being obedient, they were open to more graces and open to the working of the Holy Spirit, who, as Advocate (or council for the defense) argues to defend the community from sin and temptation.
It was an excellent homily especially as we come to the end of Easter season in a couple of weeks, and presented a lot for us to consider.