As we saw in yesterday‘s First Reading, the Church has convoked its first council in Jerusalem to discern whether Our Lord requires non-Jewish converts to be circumcised and follow Mosaic law in order to be saved. Discernment is about taking all the factors into consideration to see what God is asking, not to make an informed “vote”; we see that in the elements at play in today’s First Reading. After discussion and debate Peter reminds everyone that it was at the prompting of the Spirit that he approached the Gentiles at all, as we saw a few weeks ago. That was the first step toward seeing that salvation and a life of grace was open to the Gentiles. It was the grace of Christ that saved all believers, not circumcision or Jewish descent.
Then Paul and Barnabas recall all the graces and wonders they’d experienced evangelizing the Gentiles, and, surely, recalling how many times the Gentiles were more excited about welcoming the faith than the Jews were, much like today, when “cradle Catholics” at times are not as enthusiastic about the faith as those who discover the faith as adults. Lastly, James, who among those who considered themselves strictly observant Jewish Christians was well respected, and probably their leader, was able to see from Scripture that the Gentiles had a part in God’s saving plan as well.
It doesn’t always take a council to determine God’s will, but it does require meditating on what God has asked and how God has acted to try and see his will more clearly. Let’s strive to always have this spirit of discernment as well, both individually and as Church.
Readings: Acts 15:7–21; Psalm 96:1–3, 10; John 15:9–11. See also 5th Week of Easter, Thursday.