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The Everyday Prayer

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Icon of the Holy Face
Church of Sant'Egidio, Rome

Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

I am the good shepherd,
my sheep listen to my voice,
and they become
one flock and one fold.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Acts 15,7-21

and after a long discussion, Peter stood up and addressed them. 'My brothers,' he said, 'you know perfectly well that in the early days God made his choice among you: the gentiles were to learn the good news from me and so become believers. And God, who can read everyone's heart, showed his approval of them by giving the Holy Spirit to them just as he had to us. God made no distinction between them and us, since he purified their hearts by faith. Why do you put God to the test now by imposing on the disciples the very burden that neither our ancestors nor we ourselves were strong enough to support? But we believe that we are saved in the same way as they are: through the grace of the Lord Jesus.' The entire assembly fell silent, and they listened to Barnabas and Paul describing all the signs and wonders God had worked through them among the gentiles. When they had finished it was James who spoke. 'My brothers,' he said, 'listen to me. Simeon has described how God first arranged to enlist a people for his name out of the gentiles. This is entirely in harmony with the words of the prophets, since the scriptures say: After that I shall return and rebuild the fallen hut of David; I shall make good the gaps in it and restore it. Then the rest of humanity, and of all the nations once called mine, will look for the Lord, says the Lord who made this known so long ago. 'My verdict is, then, that instead of making things more difficult for gentiles who turn to God, we should send them a letter telling them merely to abstain from anything polluted by idols, from illicit marriages, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood. For Moses has always had his preachers in every town and is read aloud in the synagogues every Sabbath.'


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

I give you a new commandment,
that you love one another.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

The apostles and priests gathered together in an assembly in Jerusalem. The book of Acts reports that the debate was quite lively. Finally Peter spoke and recounted the story of Cornelius. He told them how the Holy Spirit had descended on the Roman centurion and his family, "just as he did with us, and in cleansing their hearts by faith he has made no distinction between them and us." Based on his own experience, Peter supported the position held by Paul and Barnabas: grace alone, not ritual practice, brings salvation. Everyone then waited for Paul and Barnabas to tell them about the precious fruits born from their mission among the Gentiles. The miracles that took place thanks to the proclamation of the Word of God among the Gentiles were a clear sign of the strength of the Gospel and pointed out the way for the Church to follow. What Luke says is poignant: "The whole assembly kept silence, and listened to Barnabas and Paul as they told of all the signs and wonders that God had done through them among the Gentiles." It was neither eloquence nor righteousness of doctrine that amazed people, but rather the extraordinary fruit of conversion that came from the preaching of the two men. That is what happened at the beginning of the Christian experience, and that is what still must happen today. That is to say the Gospel needs to be proclaimed and grow in people’s hearts, in order to form the one family of God, made up of all those who believe. It is not enough to proclaim abstract truths or to stop to preserve what already exists. The Gospel must be proclaimed and reach the hearts of those who listen to it, guiding them to join God’s family. At the end of the assembly, James spoke and, recalling Peter’s words, defended the legitimacy of Paul’s opinion. It is the faith in the Gospel that saves and not the law; it is passionate love that makes the Church grow, not cold and formulaic ritual. The Church is not an assembly of people united by external obligations or by rituals, it is a family founded on the faith of disciples who entrust their entire lives to Christ and his Gospel.

Memory of the Church