Wednesday of the 5th Week of Easter
Acts 15:1-6; John 15:1-8
Anyone who has ever been a parent or started a job knows that you can read all the books, take all the classes, and get all the training you want. No matter; once you start doing it on your own, things are going to come up that never occurred to you, and that you’re going to have to deal with.
This was true for the Apostles, too. Jesus trained them well: day after day they followed him, talked with him, asked him questions, watched him work; he even sent them out two-by-two for on-the-job training. But now, here they are, facing a problem they never dreamed would happen, but one they have to deal with.
We might not think that the Church growing is a problem, but that’s because we aren’t the Christian Pharisees. In their opinion, Gentiles could not be admitted to the Church until they accepted Mosaic law and practices, including circumcision. We don’t hear their rationale, but it’s probably the logical one: Jesus was a Jew. Of course, others disagree; St. Paul, for example, who would write that in Christ Jesus, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love (Galatians 5:6). Clearly, there is stalemate; they need a way forward, and they’re going to have to do it on their own, because Jesus never said anything about this.
Or did he? Perhaps there were signs in his words or actions.
As for his actions, the Apostles probably remember that Jesus worked with them as a group; he called them in groups, taught them as a group, even sent them out in groups. For another, he made it a habit to include rather than exclude people; for the Apostles in particular, he even gave them authority to govern, baptize and teach in his name. Finally, Jesus prayed for unity, that they may all be one as he and the Father are one (John 17:21-23). How could it be surprising that, in response to the crisis facing the Church, the Apostles would come together as a group, include the presbyters to whom they had also given authority, and then work to make sure that the unity Jesus prayed for was preserved at all costs?
As if that weren’t enough, consider what the Apostles heard him say in just the last few days: I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you (John 14:18); I am going away and I will come back to you (John 14:28); the Advocate, the Holy Spirit… will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you (John 14:26); I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing (John 15:5).
All this serves as a context to better understand why the Apostles would respond as they did. Our Lord had given ample evidence that he would be with them, as would the Holy Spirit. He knew very well that problems would crop up again and again, threatening to divide the Church, and that we wouldn’t know what to do. That’s why he went to such lengths to reassure us that when difficulties arise, we don’t have to know what to do; that’s his job, and there is no one better at it.
So then, what’s our job? Do what the Apostles did: Remain in him; assemble in his name, and in his name ask for whatever we want. When we do that, we will find exactly what the Apostles and presbyters found: No matter what problem we might have, Jesus is the answer; he is the power of the group.
Leave a Reply