ALL ARE WELCOME WITH LOVE IN THE CHURCH
In full collegiality, the apostles decided at the Council of Jerusalem that the Church is to be open to all without any distinction. All are saved in the same way: through Jesus Christ. God loves all people. That must have been a tremendous challenge for the Jews, to whom pagans were unclean and alien.
Is the Church indeed open to all today? Is there no distinction of colour, language, and social class? Is there no discrimination against the poor, against people with a “bad record?” People with long hair, who have different tastes in music, people with shorter sleeves or skirts? What are the things that really matter and that are objects of faith? What makes us stay and live in the love of Christ?
Lord, our God,
you want your Church
to be open to all persons and all nations,
for your Son was available to all
and you love all people.
God, give us open minds
and open hearts.
Save us from our narrow prejudices
and stop us from trying to create people
in our own image and likeness.
We ask you this through Christ, our Lord. Amen!
1 Reading: Acts 15:7-21
After much debate had taken place, Peter got up and said to the Apostles and the presbyters, “My brothers, you are well aware that from early days God made his choice among you that through my mouth the Gentiles would hear the word of the Gospel and believe. And God, who knows the heart, bore witness by granting them the Holy Spirit just as he did us. He made no distinction between us and them, for by faith he purified their hearts. Why, then, are you now putting God to the test by placing on the shoulders of the disciples a yoke that neither our ancestors nor we have been able to bear? On the contrary, we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they.” The whole assembly fell silent, and they listened while Paul and Barnabas described the signs and wonders God had worked among the Gentiles through them. After they had fallen silent, James responded, “My brothers, listen to me. Symeon has described how God first concerned himself with acquiring from among the Gentiles a people for his name. The words of the prophets agree with this, as is written: After this I shall return and rebuild the fallen hut of David; from its ruins I shall rebuild it and raise it up again, so that the rest of humanity may seek out the Lord, even all the Gentiles on whom my name is invoked. Thus says the Lord who accomplishes these things, known from of old. It is my judgment, therefore, that we ought to stop troubling the Gentiles who turn to God, but tell them by letter to avoid pollution from idols, unlawful marriage, the meat of strangled animals, and blood. For Moses, for generations now, has had those who proclaim him in every town, as he has been read in the synagogues every sabbath.”
Responsorial Psalm: Ps 96:1-2a, 2b-3, 10
R. (3) Proclaim God’s marvelous deeds to all the nations. or: Alleluia.
Sing to the LORD a new song;
sing to the LORD, all you lands.
Sing to the LORD; bless his name. R.
Announce his salvation, day after day.
Tell his glory among the nations;
among all peoples, his wondrous deeds. R.
Say among the nations: The LORD is king.
He has made the world firm, not to be moved;
he governs the peoples with equity. R.
Alleluia: John 10:27
My sheep hear my voice, says the Lord;
I know them, and they follow me.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel: John 15:9-11
Jesus said to his disciples: “As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. “I have told you this so that my joy might be in you and your joy might be complete.”
It would be difficult to overestimate the importance of what is recorded in Acts of the Apostles 15 and is read today. The burn-ing question centered on the extent to which a Christian’s new-found freedom would require submission to the Jewish law in accepting circumcision. The issue was discussed at what has been called “the Council of Jerusalem.”
James was the head of the Jerusalem community where the adherents to Jewish tradition resided. Peter, Paul, and Barnabas were spokesmen for the position excluding circumcision as part of Christian practice. Peter makes an impassioned plea, arguing from his own experience. He had witnessed the Holy Spirit given to Gentiles without any restrictions. Barnabas and Paul follow up with the same argument. After what was probably a heated debate, a decision is reached and is enunciated by James. Gentile Christians were not held to the Jewish law, except in four areas that he presents.
This decision had profound effects. Up to this point, there was still a strong belief that the Jewish population would accept Christ and be baptized. However, that conclusion now became more remote. The legal tie with Judaism was now practically severed, as the church became increasingly Gentile in its makeup. However, it is worthy to note that the decision of the Council of Jerusalem pertained to Gentile Christians only; nothing was said about Jewish Christians in their approach to the law. It was only a question of time, however, until the Jerusalem decision came to characterize the whole church.
John’s Gospel again today highlights the heart of the Christian call. Love unites Father and Son, and the Son and his followers. Love remains the first and greatest commandment. Such love produces a joy that is indeed complete.
– That the leaders of the Church may be always open to the Holy Spirit, especially when they have to take important decisions, we pray:
– That God who knows the human heart, may keep the leaders and the faithful in the Church from discriminating against anyone, we pray:
– That the Spirit of the Lord may dispose us to see the good that there is in others, also in those who differ much from us, we pray:
Prayer over the Gifts
Lord our God,
your Son Jesus, is here among us
not because we are a privileged class
but because you are good and loving.
Give us the Spirit of your Son,
that we may love all people
without any discrimination.
May faith and love unite us all
in Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen!
Prayer after Communion
Lord our God, Father of all,
we remain in your love
if we keep your commandments.
Give us the strength
to keep your command of love
without any discrimination.
And if we have any favorites,
let it be the poor and the little people,
those without rights or name,
that we give them access to justice and joy.
In this way, may the joy of your Son be in us,
now and until it is complete forever. Amen!
A world, even a Church, without discrimination and judgment, where people—remaining in Christ’s love—accept, appreciate and love one another, how great that would be! May we be one in the Lord who loves all of us, with the blessing of Almighty God, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen!