- Acts of the Apostles: The leaders of the early church, Apostles and Elders, allow themselves to be guided by the Holy Spirit in their decisions.
- Apocalypse: A vision of the church in the New Jerusalem, welcoming sinners; the twelve gates where all are welcome. The Temple is the Body of Christ himself.
- Gospel: We hear another part of Jesus’ farewell words at the Last Supper. He promises that the Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, will find a home in us as individuals and as a community when we keep his Word.
In the history of the church, there has been always serious challenges and possible divisions; the Great Western Schism; attitudes to slavery; class distinction; the Reformation; the challenges of the Second Vatican Council, etc. Our reading from the Acts of the Apostles deal with such a division and the many that has followed.
Since the very beginning, people have tried to impose rules and controls on who is an insider and who is an outsider; who belongs and who is excluded. Today’s 1st reading tells of an argument about whether those who were not of Jewish faith should have to “become Jewish” before entry into the church. This controversy was dealt with by the Apostles, Elders and leaders at a Synod in Jerusalem. It was decided, NO, the pagans (non-Jewish) had a right of their own. I imagine this is what Jesus meant when he spoke of a New Covenant and new Commandment – this was a whole new beginning.
This quarrel about admitting pagans to the early church is the first of many attempts throughout history to control and exclude access to God’s grace. We see it today in the arguments about admittance to the Sacraments. As Pope Francis says: “The Church is a field hospital, not a fortress. The sacraments are medicine for those who are sick, not a reward for those who are virtuous”. We are called to the freedom of the children of God, but we often prefer to impose the security of slavery to the responsibility that comes from such freedom. We need to welcome all in our church as Jesus did. The Synod on the Family in 2015 wrestled with some of those thorny issues as it looked at the exclusion from the Sacraments of people who are divorced and remarried or those in same-sex relationships, etc. There is no easy answer to those questions, but the teaching of the Gospel is very clear. Pope Francis stated: preference for “bruised, hurting and dirty” church. In God’s house all are welcome!!
It is the Holy Spirit that can guide and strengthen us in that process of welcoming our brothers and sisters in the Lord. So we look forward to the Feasts of the Ascension and Pentecost and pray that we would be open to the Holy Spirit in our lives.
Have a blessed week! Fr Joe
Feast of the Ascension: This coming Thursday is the Feast of the Ascension of the Lord and a Holy Day of Obligation. Masses will be at 9:15am and 7:30pm. (And a 10:15am for the children and families of St John Vianney School).
Notice: This Sunday, I will be in Cardiff to celebrate with Archbishop George Stack, his Golden Jubilee of Ordination.
Ad multos annos!!