April 26, 2021
by Edward Morse
Creighton University's School of Law
click here for photo and information about the writer

Monday of the Fourth Week of Easter
Lectionary: 279

Acts 11:1-18
Psalm 42:2-3; 43:3, 4
John 10:1-10

Celebrating Easter

The Story of Emmaus:
Feeling our Hearts Burning With Hope

Weekly Guide for Daily Prayer

Our Hope for Everlasting Life

Easter Joy in Everyday Life

Today’s readings speak of division, separation, and conflict, as well as a path to reconciliation.  Our Lord shows us the way. 

In the first reading, distinctions between Jews and Gentiles divided the early believers in our Lord, who are together called Christians for the first time later in this chapter (Acts 11:26).  “Circumcised believers” corner Peter (who is one of them, after all) and confront him about his fellowship with the uncircumcised believers.  What’s up with that, our brother?

Circumcision was a physical sign of membership in a covenant people, rooted in scripture and passed on through venerable tradition. Their people also carefully observed dietary restrictions, which likewise came from the scriptures.  Following those rules confirmed one’s membership in a covenant people devoted to God.  Their questions were fair:  how could a covenant people violate the boundaries of these guiding traditions without losing their identity and even losing their way?    

Peter treats them and their questions with respect.  He “explained it to them step by step”, working through these issues with them.  His answer depended on the Spirit’s work in guiding the Apostles, thereby assisting the Church through the processes of discerning how to follow their resurrected Lord.  Peter and his fellow Apostles later took a similar approach regarding the matter of circumcision, agreeing not to impose this obligation on other Gentile believers – much to their relief, I suppose!  See Acts 15.   

Peter concluded his explanation with these words: “If then God gave them the same gift he gave to us when we came to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to be able to hinder God?”  The response he received is heartening: “[T]hey stopped objecting and glorified God, saying ‘God has then granted life-giving repentance to the Gentiles too.’”  That last word is key – too!  Distinctions crumbled in the face of their common need for repentance and salvation.  Their common separation from God – and the Savior to bridge that separation -- was bigger than their differences. 

There were still issues to work out, but the path forward was lit up for them.  They would have to struggle down that path together with the help of the Spirit and the guidance of the Apostles.  Recognizing the shared gift of grace from God – and cooperating with that gift through repentance – had bridged not only their separation from God, but their separation from one another.    

Today’s Gospel restates this centrality of Jesus as the Good Shepherd as well as the Gate through which all are invited to pass if we are to be saved from our sins.  Indeed, there are important distinctions that matter – a true Savior bringing abundant life versus thieves and robbers peddling falsehoods that slaughter and destroy the sheep.  But there are other distinctions that are not important, even though humans are prone to cling to them at times. We are marvelously different in many small ways, but those differences should not divide us when we pass through the Gate together.  I suppose one could say, not only is Jesus the Gate, but he is also the Bridge.

Lord, help us to be grateful for the path of salvation you provide for us.  As we journey together, we can rejoice along the way, knowing that through the Gate we will find good pasture, where the Good Shepherd will provide food for our souls and abundant life that cannot be extinguished.  Let us receive your good gift of mercy that saves us from our sinful brokenness, which divides us from you and from others.  Thanks be to God.

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