Liturgical Colour : White
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we discern the truth contained in the Scripture passages we heard, all of us are reminded of the need for us all to remain attached and firmly centred on God throughout our whole lives, and we should not allow our own prejudices, biases, pride and desire to come between us and being a true follower of Christ. Through what the readings have shown us, we are reminded that it is very easy for us to be distracted away from the truth, from the path that the Lord has shown us, and end up becoming divided one against the other.
In our first reading today, we heard of this unfortunate occasion from the Acts of the Apostles as there were some among the Christian converts who wanted to impose the strict Jewish laws and customs on the entire Church, including on the Gentiles or the non-Jewish people like the Greeks and the Romans. Those people argued that unless they followed the laws and rules passed down from Moses, such as regarding circumcision and other regulations, they could not be saved. But St. Paul and others opposed this teaching and viewpoint.
Those were the views of some among the disciples who were members of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, some of whom indeed became believers and followers of the Lord while most remained in opposition against Him. However, even among those Pharisees and teachers of the Law who became the Lord’s disciples, it seems that they still held on their previous beliefs and way of life, in zealously enforcing the full rules and regulations of the laws of Moses. And they carried that mentality and habit with them as they entered the Church.
But in doing so, they were making it very difficult for the Gentiles who were converted to the faith, as while there are quite a few tenets of the laws of Moses that were difficult even for the Jewish people to follow, but there were some basic requirements of the old Jewish laws and customs that were seen as aberration and even disgusting by the Romans and the Greeks, such as the practice of circumcision as mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles today. Insisting that all the Gentiles convert to the Christian faith to be circumcised as the Jews had, would make it very difficult for them to continue living their lives in the world.
That is why St. Paul and St. Barnabas opposed the opinion and the efforts of those who attempted to enforce the Jewish laws and customs on the Gentiles among the converts, and sought the Apostles in Jerusalem to make a decision on the matter. That is because the situation was indeed threatening to split apart the Church, causing the Church to splinter into many parts with their different ideas. This is related to what we have heard in our Gospel passage today, we heard the Lord in His parable of the Vine, in which He referred to Himself as the True Vine, and all of us as the branches of the Vine.
The Lord Himself made it clear that unless we remain firmly attached to Him like the branches being attached to the vine, the stem from which the branches all came out from, then we as the branches will perish and be destroyed on our own. That was why, the Apostles later on would gather together with all the elders and the members of the faithful, and presided by St. Peter himself, as the Vicar of Christ, they decided that the Gentiles would not need to follow the full commandments and rules as laid down by the old laws and rules of Moses and the many other rules and customs set among the Israelites and their descendants throughout time.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all ponder on all these and think of how each and every one of us can remain firmly faithful in God. The Lord has given us the Church as the firm foundation upon which we can remain firmly rooted in faith in Him, by following the tenets and the teachings of the Church, which are the truth of Christ Our Lord passed down to us through His Apostles and their successors. It was these same Apostles who had decided, with the wisdom and guidance from the Holy Spirit, to be faithful to the truth that the Lord Himself has revealed to them, in calling everyone to be saved, whether Jews or Gentiles.
Now, are we able to stay committed and faithful to the Lord as well, brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we willing and able to make the commitment to be ever more faithful to Him and to stay rooted in Him, to have faith and complete trust in Him, and to hold firmly to our Christian beliefs to the best of our abilities? In this world today there are so many temptations and pressures that threaten to mislead and misguide us down the wrong paths, and unless we remain strong and steady in our faith, we will end up falling into the trap of the devil and sin against God. Is that what we want, brothers and sisters?
Let us all therefore renew our commitment to the Lord, by deepening our relationship with Him and by finding out more about our faith, so that we truly may know what our belief in the Lord is all about, and that we may then glorify Him through our lives and actions, remaining firmly attached to Him, the True Vine and the Source of all truth. May the Lord be with us all and may He strengthen us in faith, and give us the courage to follow Him wholeheartedly from now on with devotion, at all times. Amen.