Wow! Or, Eek! I am uncertain which to say. In a week and a half is the Feast of the Ascension of Our Lord into heaven. This happens 40 days after Easter. How has time flown by so quickly! Outside it is still late winter. At night the temperature is in the 40s and during most days it climbs only to the high 50s. We are still getting the April showers in mid to late May. First Communion has been celebrated, graduations and commencements are underway, and weddings have now begun. This weekend is the Sixth Sunday of Easter. And today’s Gospel has a wonderful message for us in our world of constant motion and over commitment. Hear or read in the Gospel of today that Jesus gives his apostles the gift of peace. The peace Jesus gives is far more than a superficial temporary peace or calm. It is very deep and rich in tone and value. This “peace” comes from the Hebrew word shalom, which is the fullness of the messianic blessing—salvation itself. This peace, this shalom, is an absolute gift of God. We also recognize that it is the special gift the apostles need on the night before Jesus dies.
The first reading reminds us of the relationship between peace and the inevitable disagreements or arguments that arise among people of good will. We discern that harmony is not to be mistaken for uniformity. The issue of who can belong to the Church is the particular problem that is causing trouble. It is time to resolve this matter. We know this problem has been lurking about since Paul has talked of non-Jewish (Gentiles) people becoming Christians. The problem is not can they be, but how and under what conditions. Some want all people to become Jews under the Mosaic Law, while Paul and Barnabas disagree and set out to get their way.
Ultimately the decision the Church reached is clear and simple. The disciples clearly took the instruction of the Holy Spirit, who reminded them of all that Jesus said and did. The letter that Judas and Silas brought back to the Gentiles was a masterful statement of the presence of God and the power of the Spirit. Indeed the decision for the Gentiles was made after prayerful attention to the Holy Spirit. The Church sought to avoid imposing unnecessary burdens on its newest converts, indeed. This decision also asked the new Gentile converts to be respectful of the Jewish believers and their traditions.
As a result of this decision at Jerusalem, there resulted a gradual and far reaching result for the Church. The decision at Jerusalem, which Catholics sometimes call the Council of Jerusalem, opened the door to the whole entire world. When we remain open to the Spirit and ask that what we do be best for the Church, great graced things happen. This initial difficulty and conflict showed us how the Church can, must and will change to help us live the faith in the Risen Lord Jesus.
Just a reminder to read last week’s bulletin online to get all the details about our three Parish-Wide Open Meetings for Parishioners to come and express your opinions and views on how the property across the street can best serve the long term mission of Saint Mary’s Parish. The Parish Pastoral Council and Finance Council will have representatives at every meeting to listen for your concerns, ideas and opinions. This is the place to express and own publicly your thoughts and opinions. Everyone is welcome to speak. Dr. Bernard Swain, Ph.D. will be the Facilitator for our process of discernment and will be conducting the meetings.
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