Monday of the Fourth Week of Easter
(Acts 11:1-18; John 10:1-10)
“Growing pains” occasionally affect children in their sleep. They cause some to wake up in the night with discomfort in their legs. Since researchers have not found an underlying cause for these pains, they are named for growth, a phenomenon associated with children. In the first reading we find the early Church afflicted with its “growing pains.”
One of the great issues for the Church in its first decades is whether to accept non-Jews into its fold. Non-Jews are not gentiles who become Jews through circumcision and eating kosher but gentiles who refuse to accept Jewish customs. Since Jesus was a Jew, could gentiles follow him without living as he did? This is the critical question. In the reading from Acts today Peter defers to none other than the Holy Spirit for an answer. He explains to the Jerusalem inquisition that he baptized Cornelius’ household upon seeing that they manifested the gifts of the Spirit.
Today the Church has other issues to deal with. We can easily name a few – people in second marriages after a divorce, the care of the sick in “persistent vegetative state,” the possibility of ordaining women to the diaconate. Too often differences on these questions create fragmentation and suspicion. Like Peter we should turn to the Holy Spirit for guidance. That is, we should recognize that what is most authentically Christian is the primacy of charity. On some issues change may be impossible for reason of consistency with tradition and coherency with established teaching. Even here, however, there is an imperative to treat the people who are passionately involved with respect and tenderness.