In our first reading this evening, we have from the Acts of the Apostles a rather defining moment for the early Church. Jesus hadn’t given them a precise rule book of how to make the Church develop: he simply sent them out to baptize. But he also told them to make disciples of all the nations, and that’s what’s at stake in today’s reading. The Gentile nations didn’t observe all the laws that the Jews did. And so admitting non-Jews to the Church meant deciding whether they had to be circumcised, and whether they had to observe all the other laws of the Old Testament, as they had.
Well, obviously, this little mini-council, swayed by the great stories of Paul and Barnabas, hearing all the wondrous deeds that God was doing among them, decided that the Spirit could call anyone God wanted to be disciples, and they shouldn’t get in the way. So they decide to impose very little upon them, outside of avoiding idol worship and unlawful marriage.
And then the Psalmist’s prophecy, “Proclaim God’s marvelous deeds to all the nations” came to pass. Think about it: because the disciples agreed to allow the Gentiles to come to Christianity in their own way, the proliferation of the Gospel was put into warp speed. If it weren’t for this little council, we very well might not be Christians today. Praise God for the movement of the Spirit!
And now the command comes to us: we have to be the ones to proclaim God’s deeds to everyone, and not to make distinctions that marginalize other people. God’s will is not fulfilled until every heart has the opportunity to respond to his love. So we who have been learning about Jesus, now need to help others to know Jesus. When we learn about Jesus, when we learn about our faith, it’s not just so that we know some good facts and can recite them. We have to go beyond what we know in our head and bring it to our heart, so that we can love other people the way he has loved us. When they experience that love in us, they will be attracted to come to know about Jesus too.
That’s how it happened in the early Church. That’s why Paul and the others were so successful. That’s why the Gentiles couldn’t get enough of the faith. We can reignite that fire in our world today if we bring what we have learned in Religious Education or Confirmation preparation, and take it from our head to our heart.
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!