Commentary on the Gospel of
Most of us have had the experience of attending the “never-ending” meeting. Perhaps it was a parish council meeting that droned on and on. Or maybe it was a faculty meeting, a parent-teacher organization meeting, a village council meeting, a student club meeting, a business meeting, a Scout meeting or some other marathon-length meeting. People get up to address some issue or policy. Then someone else chimes in, agreeing or disagreeing. Points are repeated ad nauseum as if no one really heard the other make those exact same points. Debates and arguments go on and on, circling above everyone’s heads while, paradoxically, spiraling ever downwards.
In today’s readings we join the Jerusalem Council “after much debate had taken place” and Peter stands up to address the Apostles and presbyters. After his address, the whole assembly falls silent. Then they listen while Paul and Barnabus make their points. Then they fall silent again before James responds with his point, citing Symeon and the prophets and pointing to Moses.
I’m sure this Jerusalem Council was a long and contentious meeting. But the assembly came to a just conclusion, agreeing to give the gentiles converts only the laws needed for salvation in Jesus Christ. They also took time to be silent and to truly listen to one another. Most importantly, they took to heart the message of today’s Gospel: “Remain in my love.” They knew that God loves both Jew and gentile. They kept this important fact at the center of all their debates and arguments, allowing it to guide their decisions.
We can learn from the early Apostles and disciples. We can learn to truly listen to one another with discerning hearts. We can learn the importance of silence. We can learn how to keep what is really essential – God’s love for all of us – at the center of all our decisions.