Monday of the Fourth Week of Easter
(Acts 11: 1-18; John 10:11-18)
At the Second Vatican Council discussion of religious freedom became a burning issue. Some felt that a social policy protecting the freedom of each person to worship as she thinks is necessary since conscience should not be forced. Others thought a policy favoring Catholic belief would be preferable since only the Church professes the fullness of faith. Adherents to this thinking like to charge, “Error has no rights.” The American Jesuit John Courtney Murray countered that neither error nor truth has rights since they are abstractions. People have rights, one of which is to pursue religious practice as he sees fit. In the reading from Acts today the Christian community in Jerusalem grapples with a similar issue.
Jewish Christians are upset by the news that Peter not only baptized Gentiles but ate at their table. They demand some explanation since the law forbids taking foods that are not kosher. Peter explains that the Holy Spirit indicated that he should eat all kinds of food and to accept non-Jews directly into the community of faith. According to Luke, the author of Acts, Peter’s explanation convinced his critics, but it should be kept in mind that Luke himself regularly promotes harmony.
It is easy for one to say that the Holy Spirit or “the spirit” moved her to do something. But such a defense for an innovation begs more justification. The Holy Spirit is not just the Spirit of peace and tranquility but also of wisdom and prudence. We must question actions that veer from established norms. Are they motivated out of love? Do they contradict the teachings of Jesus? Are they reasonable? Only after receiving the appropriate answers to these questions may we accept the actions as the will of God.