SIXTH Sunday of Easter: May 22, 2022
RESOLVING CONFLICTS (Acts 15:1–2, 22–29)
There were two main issues that threw the apostolic church into its first internal crisis: legislation and authority.
Paul and Barnabas had been preaching to Gentiles that new converts did not have to become Jews in order to become Christians. Not all Christians agreed. The questions were simple. Did Paul and Barnabas know the legislation correctly? Did they have any authority to preach it? After all, neither of them was one of the Twelve, and Paul had persecuted Christians before becoming one.
The apostles and elders met in Jerusalem to consider the questions. It was the first time that leaders of the church gathered together to resolve an important issue. Today some people call this “the Council of Jerusalem.”
The gathering reached these conclusions: Yes, one could become a Christian without first becoming a Jew. And yes, Paul and Barnabas had the authority to speak for the church. But, just in case the believers in Antioch didn’t accept these decisions, the believers in Jerusalem sent along a couple of extra representatives to reassure them.
Issues of legislation and authority continue to vex the church. Sometimes people wonder if pastors and bishops have the authority to make rules. Sometimes they question if the rules are in keeping with the spirit of the church. Such questions are as old as the church. They can usually be resolved in charity and with reassurance.
LIGHTS OUT (Revelation 21:10–14, 22–23)
A power outage eliminates the usefulness of many appliances. Computers and mobile phones have batteries, but they have to be charged. Kitchens rely on electricity for food preparation. The garage door opener fails. And, of course, the lights go out. In fact, people sometimes describe a power outage in those terms: “Our lights went out.” Much more went out, but the lights mean more to us than anything else.
In the days before electricity, the sun and the moon provided much-needed light. Without them, life would be unthinkable. The night brought terrors and insecurities long forgotten by more civilized societies.
So when the Book of Revelation envisions living in a world without sun and moon, the image is inconceivable. But here was a city gleaming like a jewel, fortified with walls, and penetrated by twelve magnificently harmonious gates, named for the tribes of Israel. Revelation says the heavenly bodies served no luminous purpose for this new Jerusalem. “The glory of God gave it light, and its lamp was the Lamb.” No other light was needed.
Each of us has known a time when the glory of God was our only light. Our lives were dimmed by loss of income, friends, authority —or electrical power.
When the light of our eyes finally closes, when the gathering darkness of death envelopes us, one light shall shine to dispel our fear and bring us home: the light of Christ.
Reflections: Lectionary Bulletin Inserts: Reflections on the First and Second Readings, Year C© 2019 Archdiocese of Chicago: Liturgy Training Publications. All rights reserved. Written by Paul Turner. Lectionary for Mass © 2001, CCD.