Reflection by Aidan Troy
“You cannot be saved” in the first sentence of 1st Reading this Sunday insists on fulfilling the tradition of Moses about being circumcised. Later we read that the Church in Jerusalem did not insist on this teaching and regretted that it had disturbed the Gentiles and unsettled their minds.
To say ‘you cannot be saved’ is both sad and false. Jesus came that all people might be saved and come to knowledge of the truth. Jesus does not have “you cannot be saved” in His vocabulary. With God all things are possible. The 3rd Eucharistic Prayer for Various Needs opens, “You are indeed Holy and to be glorified, O God, who love the human race and who always walks with us on the journey of life.” Yes, He is Emmanuel - God with us.
“You cannot be saved”, 1st Reading, “led to disagreement and Paul and Barnabas had a long argument with these men”. There was no immediate solution. So, it was arranged that Paul and Barnabas, with others, should go up to Jerusalem to bring this problem to the apostles and elders. Nowadays, an appeal would be made to Rome.
Jerusalem did two things – delegates accompanied Paul and Barnabas back to Antioch and brought with them a letter from Peter, the Apostles and Elders in Jerusalem. Here is “conflict resolution” in action in the Church. A local issue is being decided by the Vicar of Christ after people on the ground have been heard.
Take the Vocations’ issue in parts of the world where the number of priests has fallen. A parish last week could not celebrate a parishioner’s Requiem Mass for 10 days. This was not ill-will, but there are not priests available.
A current issue for our Church is divided opinions about females being ordained as Deacons. It is not easy for Pope Francis to decide now on this.
In our parish of Saint Joseph’s, could you imagine if only males could be volunteers for all ministries and works. This amazing community could not function if we had only one lung – the males but not the females. We would be out of breath. The church is out of priests; recruitment of males in some countries is at a very low point, while elsewhere in the world, numbers entering the priesthood are good.
If we go back to Paul and Barnabas, would it not be good if we and other parishes were asked for our opinions about females being ordained as Deacons? I don’t know whether as parishioners, you would favour having such a discussion that we could forward to Pope France. Some fear that this could lead to a demand for female priests as in other Christian communities. But that isn’t a reason not to address the question of Deacons. I know that Pope Francis must be the one to decide, just as Peter, the Apostles and Elders did.
The Holy Spirit is never absent. Jesus has promised that the Holy Spirt will be sent by God the Father. Jesus says that the Holy Spirit in his name, “will teach you everything and remind you of all I have said to you.” This Divine gift breeds not disagreement, but peace. This is “a peace that the world cannot give.” How wonderful.
When Peter met the delegation from Paul and Barnabas, he probably felt afraid about making a mistake. From his own bitter experience of denying Jesus, I suspect that Peter prayed a lot to get this one right. And He did.