Acts of the Apostles 15: 1-2, 22-29
The early Church had many things to work out - not least how to deal with the converts who did not come from a Jewish background.
The basic question was - did Gentiles have to adopt Jewish traditions before they could become Christians? For Jews, the Law was a treasure - “Sweeter than honey from the comb” - but for non-Jews the need for men to be circumcised and to learn and keep food and purity laws would indeed have felt like burdens.
Luke, in a way, glosses over the strength of the conflict - even in the bit left out, he only says that there was “much debate”. In reality, it was an explosive issue that rumbled on for years.
We are not faced here with a question of whether we obey the Torah (Jewish teaching) - but rather what is the lesson in this for us.
In the days before the Second Vatican Council, the rules governing the lives of Catholics were very clear. They covered just about every aspect of life and were seen by many people outside - and some inside - the Church as burdens. It was said that Catholics were kept in their place by fear - and perhaps for some that was true. For many, though, their Catholic identity was something they were proud of. They accepted being different and, sometimes in the face of much ridicule and hostility, kept up the practise of their Faith.
The Council looked at the life of the Church and seemed to sweep away many things that had seemed so important before. For some people this was a much-needed breath of fresh air. For others, it was a time of bereavement as things that they had held dear and sacred seemed not to matter any more.
Like that early Christian community, there are people in the Church with bruised feelings (and worse) alongside other people who feel joy and a sense of liberation. And like that early Church, it won’t be resolved overnight.
The Church is still working through the work of the Council. This does not only mean the Pope and the Bishops but us too.
It is a long held Catholic belief that the whole People of God have a sense of what is true in matters of Faith. This is called sensus fidelium and it was referred to in the Council Document “Dogmatic Constitution on the Church”. This said “The body of the faithful as a whole, anointed as they are by the Holy One (see 1 Jn. 2:20, 27) cannot err in matters of belief. Thanks to a supernatural sense of this faith which characterises the People as a whole, it manifests this unerring quality when...it shows universal agreement in matters of faith and morals.”
It does not mean that there will be instant agreement - but that we can work together to discover where the Spirit is leading us as a People.
One example - the use of local languages instead of Latin in Mass. For some this change was hard - some rejected it altogether - but, ultimately, 8oo,ooo,ooo Catholics simply said “Yes”.
What does it
mean for me?
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