Monday of the Fourth Week of Easter
(Acts 11:1-18; John 10:1-10)
In his newly released pastoral exhortation The Joy of Love Pope Francis addresses the difficult issue of Catholics married outside the church. He urges dialogue between those Catholics and their pastors or pastoral agents. Above all, he wants them to be accepted into the community. He specifically says that he does not mean that the Church’s ideal of marriage should be watered down. But he recognizes that Christ, the face of God’s mercy, calls his sheep to him. This is the message of both readings today.
In Acts Peter is being challenged by the other apostles why he ate, presumably pork, in a non-Jewish household. He responds by explaining that the Holy Spirit was at work developing the teaching of holiness. Peter was shown that those called by the Lord pray and help others; they do not obsess over diet. In the gospel Jesus does the challenging. He is accusing the Pharisees of killing his sheep by their rigid interpretation of the Law. He will lead his people to salvation by gently speaking to their needs. First, he will resolve their immediate problems. Then, he will address the deeper questions of human existence.
We often feel a need to draw lines separating ourselves from others. Jesus warns us to be very careful about this enterprise. More preferably, we should assist those struggling to follow Jesus’ way. We want to welcome them into our community of love where they may receive the direction they need.