April 28, 2016 (Thursday of the 5th Week of Easter)
Dear friends in Christ, while the law is good for our common existence, grace is even more important. The law came through Moses, but grace has come to us through Christ. Our Liturgy today focuses on the resolution of a disagreement in the early church, concerning the issue of the observance of the law of circumcision.
From our First reading (Acts 15:7-21) we find that, in every human society, there is bound to be moments of disagreements and tension. How such are resolved is what will determine the continued existence of peace in the community. In about 49 AD, there was a disagreement in the Church at Antioch concerning circumcision. But beyond just circumcision is the question of how pagans and Gentiles are to be admitted into the faith. Antioch at the time of the happening unlike Jerusalem, which was a predominantly Jewish society, was a cosmopolitan city. This is based on the fact that Antioch was on the trade route that connected Asia Minor with the port cities of Palestine. There was a large Jewish community in the City and so also were many Gentiles (Greeks and Romans). When the Gospel was first preached there, it won a considerable followership among both Jews and Gentiles. As the Christian community grew, there were disagreements which arose from the visit of self–appointed representatives of the Mother Church in Jerusalem who insisted that Gentile converts had to follow the Mosaic Laws concerning dietary practices and be circumcised first before they can be Christians.
There were others like Paul however, who held on to the fact that Baptism supersedes circumcision. When the disagreement could not be resolved in Antioch, in other not to divide the community or cause disaffection among members, they agreed to take the matter to the Apostles in Jerusalem recognizing the leadership of the Mother Church and of the hierarchy under the care of Peter. This actually led to the first Council of the Church held in Jerusalem. The matter was resolved and a letter with a delegation of two elders sent back to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas on the resolution that, the new converts were not to be subjected to the observance of the Mosaic law of circumcision but they were to abstain from certain practices which would have rendered them ritually unclean in the eyes of the Jews. This was to ensure that both parties live peacefully together in one community of the followers of Christ.
It is important for us to learn that disagreements are bound to come, but in the Church there is a structure in place to deal with such, to maintain the peace which only Christ can give. In our personal lives we must also do the same. To find common grounds at resolving our issues without having to destroy the common good and without resorting to violence. How do you resolve issues in your home, office or community?
Let us pray: Lord grant us peace and make us instruments of your peace. Amen.