We resume today Jesus’ last supper discourse, which curiously is also yesterday’s gospel reading on the Feast of St. Matthias. Jesus tells his disciples, “Love one another as I love you.” Then he enters his passion and death to show us the depth of that love. It is a sacrificial love that becomes the foundation of our love for one another, because this is the love to which Jesus calls us in imitation of his love for us.
Not long after, we remember the struggles of the early church in the first reading. Paul and Barnabas were in Antioch proclaiming the gospel to non-Jews. But some who were Jews (there was yet no clear distinction between the general Jewish membership and the followers of Jesus) suggested strongly that non-Jewish converts had first to become Jews, making them subject to the Law of Moses and the traditions of circumcision and their dietary laws. So Paul and Barnabas appeal to the apostles and the church in Jerusalem to help them discern the Holy Spirit’s voice. The missing piece would have been the passage just before today’s first reading, where Peter addresses the church in Jerusalem and says, “God, who knows the heart, bore witness by granting them the holy Spirit just as he did us. He made no distinction between us and them, for by faith he purified their hearts. Why, then, are you now putting God to the test by placing on the shoulders of the disciples a yoke that neither our ancestors nor we have been able to bear? On the contrary, we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they.” Peter pointed out how God who granted them the gift of the Holy Spirit, had granted the same Holy Spirit to them. So if it didn’t matter to God that both Jews and non-Jews would be granted the gift of the Holy Spirit without distinction, why should it matter to us?
That decision becomes the foundation for the church’s ministry to the rest of the human family that did not belong to Israel, guaranteeing the universality of the Gospel message and the gift of the Holy Spirit.
As a church we continue to discern the practical applications of the Gospel in our time. We should then be willing to bring our sometimes opposing positions to the table so that we can call on God together and listen for the voice of the Holy Spirit. We know that when we get comfortable in our way of life, we begin to collect clutter that can obscure what is essential. Such clutter can obscure our understanding of the Gospel when human traditions and “what we’ve always done” become more important. And we cannot forget the example of Jesus’ love for us. “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” We are not to love our neighbor as we want to love them, but rather as Jesus loves us. The difference is light years apart.
We celebrated mass for the repose of +Faye & Al Pici.
Rolo B Castillo © 2020