Memory of the Church

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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 lively. Finally Peter spoke and referred to the story of Cornelius. He told them how the Holy Spirit had descended on the Roman centurion and his family, "In cleansing their hearts by faith [God] has made no distinction between them and us." Building 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. That is what happened at the beginning of the Christian experience, and that is what still must happen today. Indeed, the Gospel needs to be proclaimed and grow in people's hearts, in order to gather together those who have been scattered and form the one family of God, which witnesses to a love that knows no borders. It is not enough to proclaim abstract truths or stop and preserving what already exist, closing ourselves in within our walls. We must go out, as Pope Francis repeats, and preach the Gospel everywhere in the world, so that it can reach the hearts of those who listen to it, bringing them into God's family. At the end of the assembly, James spoke, and referring to Peter's words, defended the legitimacy of Paul's opinion. He said that it is faith in the Gospel that saves, not the Law; it is passionate love that makes the Church grow, not cold and programmatic ritual. The Church is not a people gathered by rules or particular programs, it is a people gathered by God to whom the Gospel of love has been entrusted, so that it might be preached to the ends of the earth.