Greetings on this the Wednesday of the Fifth Week of Easter
Readings: Acts 15:1-6; PS 122:1-2, 3-4ab, 4cd-5; Jn 15:1-8
Note: Today’s Gospel portion is the same from the 5th Sunday of Easter, only three days ago. The focus has changed by way of the supporting scripture given in the Book of the Acts of the Apostles.
It is instructive for us to imagine that the same scripture portion has multiple divine messages for us. We are humans and we are capable of many types of revelation and directions from the Lord.
Some who had come down from Judea were instructing the brothers,
“Unless you are circumcised according to the Mosaic practice,
you cannot be saved.”
This was an early and core theological point being made by multiple factions within the Church.
Circumcision is from the covenant of the Lord with Abraham. We find it in the Book of Genesis Chapter 17 for its inauguration. After the initial circumcisions of the 99 year old Abram, its reach begins with every 8 day old male including house-born slaves and those acquired by money who are not of your descendants. Therefore it encompasses everyone under the authority of the nations.
In regards to the importance of circumcision we consider Moses. After his accepting of his mission to free the people he started his journey back to Egypt and:
On the journey, at a place where they spent the night, the LORD came upon Moses and sought to put him to death. But Zipporah took a piece of flint and cut off her son’s foreskin and, touching his feet, she said, “Surely you are a spouse of blood to me.” So God let Moses alone. Circumcision begot “A spouse of blood” Exodus 4:24-26.
There are two schools of thought. The first explanation is the literal circumcision of the son of Moses. The second explanation it is the circumcision of Moses himself (a son, bridegroom of blood).
We are fairly confident that Moses was not circumcised at 8 days old. It is very likely Zipporah saved her husband from the wrath of the Lord by circumcising Moses (using the son and forehead pretext as polite talk). By the way, it is the only circumcision recorded in sacred Scripture made by a woman.
Circumcision is then a mark of covenant and of conversion.
- Abram becomes Abraham.
- Moses becomes the servant of the Lord.
First reading and conflict
It is necessary to circumcise them
and direct them to observe the Mosaic law.”
The Apostles and the presbyters met together to see about this matter.
Responsorial Psalm 122
Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.
We of course see the Church in the same ways.
Editor note from RNAB: A song of Zion, sung by pilgrims obeying the law to visit Jerusalem three times on a journey. The singer anticipates joining the procession into the city. Jerusalem is a place of encounter, where the people praise God and hear the divine justice mediated by the king. The very buildings bespeak God’s power. May the grace of this place transform the people’s lives.
Tomorrow’s reading brings the conclusion that Gentiles are not required to be circumcised.
I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower.
He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit,
and everyone that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit.
Jesus is changing (as this is an ongoing effort) the metrics by which we understand and evaluate the practice of the faith. It is by the fruits we are to be known, not by acts of law.
Repeating what I said on Sunday, Gal 5:22-23
In contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.
All our practices and teachings of our core beliefs must be measured by fruits in primacy:
- Social Justice
- 10 Commandments
- Nationalistic Catholicism
- Political Catholicism
Read that again.
What I am saying is as equally challenging as telling believers that circumcision is no longer required. It is a massive shift. By itself unsettling. But by breaking through the theology of grace and mercy become the manifestation of the cornerstone, Jesus.
David’s Census; the Plague
The LORD’s anger against Israel flared again, and he incited David against them: “Go, take a census of Israel and Judah.” 2 Sam 24:1
Actually the response of David was NOT orderred by the Lord. It was an IMPROPER sympathetic response to the Lord’s anger.
See another version: A satan rose up against Israel, and he incited David to take a census of Israel. (1 Chr 21:1)
Afterward, however, David regretted having numbered the people. David said to the LORD: “I have sinned grievously in what I have done. Take away, LORD, your servant’s guilt, for I have acted very foolishly.” 2 Sam 24:10
The outcome was the loss of 70,000 people to a plague.
Editor note from RNAB: The narrative supposes that since the people belonged to the Lord rather than to the king, only the Lord should know their exact number. Further, since such an exact numbering of the people would make it possible for the king to exercise centralized power, imposing taxation, conscription, and expropriation upon Israel, the story shares the view of monarchy found in 1 Sm 8:4–18. See also Nm 3:44–51, where census taking requires an apotropaic offering.
Temptation to Measure
We are always tempted to measure things (somewhat repeating the Sunday homily).
It is the Lord’s to measure.
We are to be fruitful with the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Where the Catholic Church ventures into the public discourse, as well it should, she must be painfully aware of:
- Abraham – going from fear to leadership, marked by a sign of faith.
- Moses – saved by his wife’s urge for her husband, marked by a sign of faith.
- David’s Census – making decisions based on money, power, influence and comfort of the comfortable.
We too are marked by a sign of faith, our baptism into the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Not by power or counting but by fruits are we to be known.
The culture war in the United States continues to rage. Everyone has good points. Everyone has a portion of the truth. All of these must coalesced into a unity.
Lost in the dialog
- Permissive Will of God is beyond our grasp in the sense of reduction or expansion. Yet it exists and we must accept that this love has a sort of primacy in our thinking. The Lord counts, we are not to count.
- Moral Permissiveness is not a core value for the Church. It must always be our intention to guide to true freedom. We must always teach the truth. We must lead by example. We must lead by giving pathways to truth and the freedom that is in the Lord.
There is tension between these ideas. There is even disquiet in dealing with these issues.
The Lord is angry we are not dealing with these questions properly.
Let us not perform an IMPROPER sympathetic response to the Lord’s anger.
All our politics inside and outside the Church proper must be guided by the fruits of the Spirit which are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.
Against such there is no law.
Peace be with you,