Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Wednesday word, 09 May 2007

5Easter Wednesday (09 May 2007) Ac 15. 1-6; Ps 122; Jn 15. 1-8
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
15 and 10

We begin Chapter 15 of the Acts of the Apostles today. We will hear it in thirds until Friday. Chapter 15 describes the “council of Jerusalem.” Paul and Barnabas, apostles to the uncircumcised, that is, the Gentiles, visit the apostles in Jerusalem to seek an end to the opposition of the Pharisees, who wanted everyone circumcised.

We can appreciate this Chapter 15 only by reading it with Chapter 10, which we heard late last month. Peter had a vision of a large sheet let down from the opened heaven. It contained all sorts of animals that Jewish dietary laws forbade him to eat. Yet a voice commanded Peter, “Slaughter and eat.” When Peter refused, he heard the voice [speak] to him again, a second time, “What God has made clean, you are not to call profane.” God’s initiative makes clean.

Human response to divine initiative prepared Peter for his preaching visit to the household of a Gentile, who wanted to hear the gospel.

As Peter preached the Spirit fell on all listening to the word of the gospel. They had not been baptized, but the Spirit came to them! As a result, Peter ordered that they be baptized. This experience was at work in the complex discernment at the council of Jerusalem. Put in numbers: Chapter 10 makes sense of Chapter 15 and its decision to set aside circumcision.

No discernment happens without experience and one’s pondering over the experience. When one notices God at work, human obedience, faithful listening to God working in our experience, is the healthiest response. Discernment takes time; it’s usually messy; and it always involves others.

Those who feel the Spirit at work and who refuse to discern refuse to open themselves to the Spirit’s new creation. Those who refuse to discern, who refuse to reflect on their experience, miss the Spirit, whose action is usually subtle.

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