Fifth Week of Eastertide

Wednesday 1 May

Acts 15.1-6; Psalm 121; John 15.1-8

The question of circumcision comes in for review as the early Christian community expands beyond the confines of Judaism. This ancient ritual served to distinguish the people of God from foreigners and aliens (Exodus 12.43-49) as a sign of the special covenant between God and his people (Genesis 17.10-14). However Paul comes to recognise that it is an empty sign if not accompanied by interior conversion of the heart, and to acknowledge that in Christ there is no more distinction between Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female (Galatians 3.28).

All who make their home in Christ through faith confirmed in baptism are joined to him and draw life from him as the branches of a vine. All who belong to him are members of his one body and share his one Spirit. It is this that distinguishes and unifies the followers of Christ, not race or gender, and not circumcision.

Thursday 2 May

Acts 15.7-21; Psalm 95; John 15.9-11

Following a lengthy and tense discussion, Peter shares the revelation given him by God which prompted him to baptise the whole household of Cornelius (Acts 11.1-18) from which he argues that God calls the Gentiles to be saved as well the Jews. This is a new beginning and the burdensome trappings of the old law should not apply. After a silence in which the assembly considers this and other testimony from Paul and Barnabas about the receptivity of the pagans to the Gospel, James makes a ruling quoting a passage from the prophet Amos (9.11-12). Henceforward Gentile converts do not need to submit to circumcision, though they should observe certain dietary requirements and avoid illicit sexual liaisons.

As if to reinforce the sentiment of the first reading, the Gospel today grounds the whole of our belonging to Christ in the love God has for us. This is the basis for our following of Christ and our commitment to his teaching and example.

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