4 and 5 May 2013 Homily Sixth Week of Easter
Acts 15:1-2, 22-29
My sisters and brothers in Christ.
The first reading today addresses the first major crisis the Christian community faced.
The written word “crisis” in Chinese is formed by two figures. One of the figures signifies “danger” the other “opportunity.”
There is no guarantee that a person or a group of persons in “crisis” will choose to transform the situation from being a “danger” to being an “opportunity.”
In the case of the early Christian community the crisis had to do with who could be “in” and who was “out” of the community.
The requirements, for entrance into the community, could center on following certain rules and regulations that Jesus himself followed as a devout Jew of his time and place in history. We meet the group called the “Judaizers” by scholars. The “Judaizers” required that gentile converts to Christ obey the Mosaic Law.
The requirements, we discover today in the first reading center on something else.
The early Christian community believed that it was guided by the Holy Spirit.
As is recounted today in the first Reading, after a discussion among the church a decision was reached. “Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ” was to be the fundamental requirement for membership in the Christian community.
This meant, race, gender, language, previous religious beliefs, even one’s past moral history, were not the basis of entrance into the Christian community.
“The apostles and elders” of Jerusalem addressed the “brothers …….of Gentile origin….” by means of a letter.
The letter explains that the “the Holy Spirit..” and the “…apostles and elders have decided…” the gentile brothers do not need to be “burdened” by observing the whole of the Mosaic Law.
This frees the community to invite and welcome non Jewish people to enter the community.
This is a decisive step in making the community “catholic” with a small “c” meaning a “universal” community, open to all.
This is a corrective to our natural tendency to covet, save, exclude, “protect”, control and limit access to what we believe is “ours.”
We cannot limit, control or “own” our religion anymore than we can limit, control or “own” God.
The Book of Apocalypse /Revelation treats the theme of the universality of the Christian community as well.
The vision of John today turns to the “holy city Jerusalem.”
The holy city has four sets of three gates to allow entrance to the city from all directions and by implication, by all peoples.
There is a curious building that is missing in the “holy city.”
The “holy city” has no temple.
How is it possible that the “holy city” has no temple?
The reason for this is clearly stated by the “seer” John.
“The temple is the Lord God almighty and the Lamb.”
In other words the “holy city” is permeated by the presence of God and Christ.
The holy city, the holy people, the Lord God almighty and the Lamb have put an end to the distinction between what is “holy” and what is “profane.”
In the “holy city” the profane and impure no longer exist.
It is “the holy city” after all and therefore the impure and profane have no place in the city.
Jesus speaks about the Father and Jesus living in his“holy people” in the Gospel today.
Jesus says: “….we (the Father and Jesus) will come and make our dwelling with….whoever loves me and keeps my word.”
Jesus is not speaking about our going to a temple or a building or a place where the Father and son live.
Jesus is saying that the Father and Jesus come to “dwell”, that is live, with and in us.
We often think of ourselves as persons or a group of persons “searching” for God.
Jesus is telling us that the Father and Jesus continually are “searching” for us.
The Gospel today is about how “the search” continues after Jesus goes to the Father.
Jesus promises the “Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in Jesus’ name.”
The Advocate has three functions.
First, the “Advocate, the Holy Spirit” will teach everything.
Secondly, the “Advocate, the Holy Spirit” will remind us of everything Jesus told us.
Thirdly, the “Advocate, the Holy Spirit” will be the abiding peace that Jesus promises.
The “peace” that Jesus gives is different from the “peace” the world gives.
The “peace” the world gives is based on our ideas of revenge, control of others, selfishness and “getting even.”
The “peace” Jesus gives is from the Father and has to do with mercy and forgiveness and loving justice.
The “peace” and “joy” that come from the Father and Son live on among us in the presence of the Spirit dwelling in our community and in us.