Thursday, May 18, 2017

DIFFICULT DECISIONS.


Homily for May 18th, 2017: Acts 15:22-31; John 15:12-17.

          We heard in yesterday’s first reading about the Church in the first generation after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension deciding a question crucial for the Church’s future: how much of the Jewish law must be required of non-Jews seeking Christian baptism? What we now recognize was the first Church Council decided to erect as few barriers a possible. The Church must not continue to be, as at first, a small group within Judaism. It must be open to all without exception. That we are Catholic Christians today in a land and continent unknown to anyone present at that first Council in Jerusalem is a fruit of what that Council decided.

          Today’s first reading tells of the Council’s decision being communicated to the Church at Antioch. When the letter from Jerusalem was read out in Antioch, we heard, “there was great delight” at what it contained.

          Today the Church wrestles with a problem of similar gravity: how can we continue to remain faithful to the Church’s consistent teaching, based on the Bible, that marriage is the permanent union of one man and one woman, while also trying to minister pastorally to couples whose marriages fail and are now in second unions, often with children? Up to now such people have been forbidden to come to Communion, since they are living in relationships which the Church cannot bless. Pope Francis called two synods of the world's bishops to discuss this painful question. A year ago he issued an encyclical letter, Amoris laetitia, which means “The Joy of Love.” Though he hoped it would settle the question, controversy continues. We must pray that the Holy Spirit will guide those who are seeking a solution to this difficult problem.

          Jesus’ twice repeated command in today’s gospel, “love one another,” is especially important in this connection. Too often Catholics today separate themselves into parties: us and them, liberals and conservatives. Divisions like that, appropriate in the political realm, have no place in the great family of God which we call the Catholic Church. We are all brothers and sisters; all equally daughters and sons of our heavenly Father, who reconciles us with him and with each other through the poured out blood of his divine Son, Jesus Christ.