Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Where Divine and Human Intersect
We heard the second third of Chapter 15 of the Acts of the Apostles today. Chapter 15 describes the “council of Jerusalem,” the watershed of the Acts of the Apostles. Yesterday we heard the question at hand was whether uncircumcised believers in Messiah Jesus needed to be circumcised like the first believers--all Jewish like Jesus.
Circumcision was a Jewish custom. It was deeply ingrained in Jewish experience, religious and social. Circumcision was not torah, not the heart of God as the Jewish scriptures--Moses, the Prophets, the Psalms and other Writings--revealed. Some Pharisees who became believers in Jesus as Messiah and Lord, however, made circumcision the equal of torah.
They thought that circumcising would purify foreigners who came to believe in Judaism. Peter made clear that 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.
In the discernment James used the prophet Amos to validate letting go of circumcision:
I [God] 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.The action of purifying is God rebuilding. God acts, the Lord who accomplishes these things, known from of old.
Discernment at the council of Jerusalem noticed God’s desires intersecting with human history and the human desire to encounter Jesus. That is a good way of appreciating discernment: seeking to notice the intersection of God’s desires with human desires.
God knows each of us from before all else. To discern how we abide in Jesus deepens Jesus’ joy in us so that our joy may be complete. Discernment allows that to happen. That’s how vital discernment is! God in Jesus rebuilds us.
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