Scripture: 1st Reading: Acts15,7-21; Resp. Psalm: Ps96,1-3,10; Gosp. Accl.: Jn10,27; Gospel: Jn15,9-11
The issue of circumcision was going to tear the early Christian community apart. The matter was brought to the Apostles and elders in Jerusalem for discernment and decision. As would be expected, there were argument for and against. There was much debate.
At a point, Peter had to intervene. Peter said that God made no distinction between people's because God gave the gentiles the Holy Spirit also. God made no distinction between the disciples of Jewish origin and those of gentile origin.
Peter was very clear on this. For him, the burden of testifying to the gospel of Jesus Christ was enough. There must be no extra yoke put upon the gentiles, especially yokes that those asking others to carry could not bear themselves. Peter concluded by remarking: "But we believe that we shall be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will."
James the Apostle then led the community in summarizing the prevailing ideas and decisions that the gentiles should abstain from the pollution of idols, from unchastity and from what is strangled and from blood. In other words, the disciples of gentile origin must not engage in acts that were considered abominable to their brethren who were of Jewish origin. Charity, sensitivity to other's feelings and being one's brother's keeper were to be the watchword.
The words of our Lord today, His charge to all believers, is for them to abide in His love. Our Lord said "as the Father has loved me, so have I loved you." When anyone keeps the commandments of Jesus, that person will abide in the love of Jesus, just as the Lord kept His Father's commandment and abided in His Father's love. The community of the early believers finally realized that they were splitting hairs over what was not fundamental to the teaching of their Master.
They came to realize the futility in protecting a practice that did nothing to promote the law of love and inclusiveness but that promoted exclusiveness and discrimination, that saw the world divided into ourselves and others. Finally, they remembered all that their Master stood for, and died for.
We make similar mistakes in our lives especially when we abandon the scourge of leprosy to cure common ringworm, when we abandon the fundamentals to run after the peripherals. We fail when we think to preach the word is more important than to live the word. We fail when we think that witnessing is synonymous with preaching the word with words of mouth alone and do not realize that we must integrate our preaching with the witness of our lives.
Herein lies the challenge of Christian witnessing today. There are many preachers of the word. Churches spring up like mushrooms but there is a dearth if authentic witnesses. What we have in the majority are self seekers, people who do business with the gospel and deceive others. Let us ask the Master of the vineyard who resolved the festering crisis in the early community in today's reading, to make us authentic, credible witnesses.
Let us pray: "O God, by whose grace, though sinners, we are made just and though pitiable, made blessed, stand, we pray, by your works, stand by your gifts, that those justified by faith may not lack the courage of perseverance." Amen
May the Living Word of God find a true dwelling place within our hearts and souls today and always.