|The Sixth Sunday of Easter
Acts 15:1-2, 22-29
Psalms 67:2-3, 5, 6, 8
Revelation 21:10-14, 22-23
The early followers of Jesus had their problems forming themselves into a unified community. You might think that theological questions divide the Church of our time. In the First Reading today we will hear a dandy.
Jesus and His followers were Jews who lived with all the practices of the Mosaic Law, which included for men, being circumcised. In the Acts of the Apostles we are impressed with the growth and spreading of the Good News to all the nations, which included those not born under the Law, who are known as “Gentiles.” Here is the conflict then, some were teaching that all male followers of Jesus also had to be circumcised. Now you talk about “Conservatives” versus “Liberals,” this was very serious.
Today we hear how it all worked out with a letter sent to the new “Gentile” converts, explaining what exactly would be expected of them as followers of Jesus.
It seems they all got together and talked it over. This all sounds rather simple in our First Reading, but there had to have been lots of listening in order for there to have been that communication. The “Gentiles” had to have done much listening to the preaching of Paul and Barnabas to begin letting the Good News into their hearts and souls. Perhaps listening is more central to being a follower than doing lots of “communicating,” meaning “talking.”
In today’s Gospel, we listen to the disciples listening to Jesus telling them to listen to His word and keep it alive in their actions. This reading continues Jesus’ Last Discourse the night of His betrayal. They will listen to other voices that night and turn away from His ways. As we have been hearing during these Easter days, Jesus will again call to them and speak His words of peace.
The “peace” which the world cannot give is that which comes to us through the Holy Spirit, which Jesus promises His listeners, even if we seek peace as the world tries to give it. This world “peace” is a temporary result of either conformity or conquest. The “peace” the world offers comes from accomplishment and approval.
The “peace” that Jesus gives is the result of listening to His word and keeping it. This is not easy, because there are so many other voices speaking and seeking our “followship.” The Holy Spirit hovers over the tensions of the Church and each of us as we try to hear, listen, and then act.
We have seen Jesus enter the Upper Room where His fearful friends were hiding and He greeted them with “peace.” We have heard the Easter stories of how His followers turned back to their former ways, but not peacefully. The Words, which Jesus offers us, do not take away the tensions of life. The Holy Spirit is not given as a reward for solving life’s problems. Christ’s “peace” is not earned by our facile surrender to His will. The early Church had its conflicts. The later Church has its conflicts as well. Each of us who hears His word is put in tension by our listening to it. His whole message is that when things happen which we do not understand, we “may believe.”
If believing is a way of seeing, then listening leads to such believing. Easy surrender is not believing, but rather, it is the entering the tensions of communication which resulted in the peaceful acceptance of the “gentiles” in the First Reading. “Peace,” as Jesus offers it, is a grace which accompanies the tensions of believing.
We are aware of how the world offers “peace,” but Jesus invites us
to be in this world, but not of it. We cannot then be in the world
and not participate in the stress between God's Kingdom and the self-centered
domination of this world's sinful spirit. The “peace” Jesus offers
accompanies His call to the disciples and to us, to go out and be His disciples.
Jesus calls us all out of the “Lazy Boy” chair of worldly tranquillity
and out into the tension of communicating the Good News through the actions
of our lives. We listen to Him, keep His word and where does that
get us? It gets us in a position of listening also to the world He
came to form into His Kingdom. How do you spell “relief?” How
do you experience “peace?”
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