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 he or she thinks is necessary. They argued that the inner sanctum of conscience must not be forced. Others thought a policy favoring Catholic belief where possible would be preferable since only the Church professes the fullness of faith. Adherents to this thinking charged, “Error has no rights.” The American Jesuit John Courtney Murray countered that neither error nor truth has rights since both are abstractions. People have rights, one of which is to pursue religious belief as the person 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 he was only following the will of the Holy Spirit made known to him in a vision. Evidently Peter’s explanation convinced his critics. They too recognize the work of the Holy Spirit.
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.