Acts 15:22-31; John 15:12-17
I remember once talking to my mother as my kids were growing older and leaving home. I questioned where the time had gone and was worried about how they would get along in life. I don’t remember everything that Mom said in reply but I do recall that she quoted the old saying, “There are only two things a parent can give their children; one is roots and the other, wings.”
Today’s readings show us that our Heavenly Father has given his Church roots and wings: Her roots are the love of Christ, her wings the inspiration of Holy Spirit.
In today’s gospel Jesus told his Apostles, You are my friends if you do what I command you; I no longer call you slaves. This is a great honor; few people were ever called friends of God. Even Moses, Joshua, and David were known as “slaves” or “servants of God.” Abraham was called God’s friend (Isaiah 41:8; James 2:23). This is not to exalt one over the others, for God loves all with an everlasting love; it is simply to acknowledge that God relates to people in ways of his own choosing.
Related to this, Christ told his Apostles that it was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain. He knew that they would encounter situations they weren’t entirely prepared for; that is why he told them that he would send the Holy Spirit to guide them into all truth.
It is in today’s reading from Acts that we witness the Apostles’ first flight on the wings of the Spirit. With false teaching threatening to divide the early Church, the Apostles gathered in Jerusalem for the first Council ever held. Since the earliest times the Church has gathered when facing a crisis. This is a hopeful sign. Where the love of God is active the many will gather, for true love seeks unity and diversity assumes many voices in times of trouble. So it was that after debate and discussion, the united voice of the Council was best expressed in a letter whose key sentence begins, ‘It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us not to place on you any burden beyond these necessities…’
The phrase – the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us – is as important for what it does not say as for what it says. We commonly hear the question, “What would Jesus do?” Yet this chapter of Acts says nothing at all about what Jesus would do; he is never mentioned. Does that mean that Jesus had no influence on them or had been forgotten? Of course not; it means that the Apostles had listened to Jesus, had learned from him, and were now listening to the internal promptings of the same Holy Spirit whom he had promised to send.
As it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be. We in the Church today have the same roots and the same wings. Christ is the vine and we the branches; our roots bind us to him beyond any undoing. His is the infinite love that sustains and gives us life; ours the obedience to love one another as he commands. The same Holy Spirit who united the Apostles still inspires us to proclaim with one voice that Jesus is Lord and keeps us together despite the dissensions that threaten to tear us apart.
Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth.
O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy His consolations, Through Christ Our Lord, Amen.