Friday, May 11, 2012

The First Council

As we prepare this year to celebrate 50 years since the Second Vatican Council. It is good that the first reading today takes us back to the First Council of the Church.

Chapter 15 of Acts recalls how the church resolved the most controversial issue in the Church, whether to remain faithful to the Mosaic Law or whether it was possible that with Jesus some new had begun. This was nothing less than a fundamental change of identity, the reason why today we think of Christianity and Judaism as two distinct religions. The entire ability of Christianity to attract gentiles and spread throughout the world was made possible by this council.

The Church has continued to use this model to resolve issues of great moment up to and including the Second Vatican Council. Only twenty-one of these councils have been held in the more than 2000 year history of our church.

It we look back at what was decided at the First Council of Jerusalem we see that it continued to what in our modern language would be kosher meat. Today even the most fundamentalist Christians pay little attention to that bible verse. Why? Because church teaching develops.

Were there many who were outraged by Jerusalem I? Yes. Just as there are still some who are angry over Vatican II. For me, I continue to hold to the belief that these Councils have and will continue to be one of the great tools the Holy Spirit uses to teach us all things.

Today's reading ends with the reading of the letter, the council document, if you will. Perhaps this anniversary year is a great time to go back and read the documents of Vatican II. . For both extremes the documents are a disappointment. They are balanced in a way that shows the movement of the Spirit. They continue not to invent new things but to call us to a new and deeper understanding of very old things, the truths of our faith.