Thursday of the Fifth Week of Easter
Daily Scripture Analysis

Daily Gospel

Thursday of the Fifth Week of Easter

Reading 1 (Acts 15:7-21):

After much debate had taken place,
Peter got up and said to the Apostles and the presbyters,
"My brothers, you are well aware that from early days
God made his choice among you that through my mouth
the Gentiles would hear the word of the Gospel and believe.
And God, who knows the heart,
bore witness by granting them the Holy Spirit
just as he did us.
He made no distinction between us and them,
for by faith he purified their hearts.
Why, then, are you now putting God to the test
by placing on the shoulders of the disciples
a yoke that neither our ancestors nor we have been able to bear?
On the contrary, we believe that we are saved
through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they."
The whole assembly fell silent,
and they listened
while Paul and Barnabas described the signs and wonders
God had worked among the Gentiles through them.

After they had fallen silent, James responded,
"My brothers, listen to me.
Symeon has described how God first concerned himself
with acquiring from among the Gentiles a people for his name.
The words of the prophets agree with this, as is written:

After this I shall return
and rebuild the fallen hut of David;
from its ruins I shall rebuild it
and raise it up again,
so that the rest of humanity may seek out the Lord,
even all the Gentiles on whom my name is invoked.
Thus says the Lord who accomplishes these things,
known from of old.

It is my judgment, therefore,
that we ought to stop troubling the Gentiles who turn to God,
but tell them by letter to avoid pollution from idols,
unlawful marriage, the meat of strangled animals, and blood.
For Moses, for generations now,
has had those who proclaim him in every town,
as he has been read in the synagogues every sabbath."

Gospel (Jn 15:9-11):

Jesus said to his disciples:
"As the Father loves me, so I also love you.
Remain in my love.
If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love,
just as I have kept my Father's commandments
and remain in his love.

"I have told you this so that
my joy might be in you and
your joy might be complete."


Written by: Fr. Anthony Dinh Minh Tien, O.P.

 

I. THEME: What are the basic principles of Christianity?

             

            Continuing of what we discussed yesterday about what are the basic doctrines of Christianity which both the Jews and the Gentiles must keep, and what aren’t necessary which can be adapted according to each nation’s tradition and culture.

            Today readings help us to recognize the core of the conflict through the contributing of some important figures’ opinion. In the first reading, after praying together, Peter offered his opinion: Since the Holy Spirit is given to both Jews and Gentiles; since the faithful are purified by faith, not by the law; and since people are saved by grace, not by their own effort, we can’t command the Gentiles to be circumcised and to keep all the laws as the Jews. After Peter, James, the Episcopos of Jerusalem, voiced his opinion to defend the Gentiles as follows: According to the prophets, the Gentiles are also included in God’s plan of salvation; therefore, we should not command the Gentiles to be circumcised and to keep the Jewish tradition. We should write a letter and advise them three things: not to eat meat which offered for idols, not to have unlawful marriage, and not to eat the meat of strangled animals, and blood. In the Gospel, Jesus paid a special attention to the commandment of love as the foundation of Christianity: “As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love.”

II. ANALYSIS:

1/ Reading I: The apostles gave their opinions about what need to be applied for the Gentiles.

1.1/ Simon Peter’s opinion: After many discussion, Peter, as the Church’s leader, stood up and said: “My brothers, you are well aware that from early days God made his choice among you that through my mouth the Gentiles would hear the word of the gospel and believe.” Peter mentioned three main reasons why they should not command the Gentiles to be circumcised and to keep all the law according to the Jewish tradition.

            (1) God bestows His Spirit on the apostles at the Pentecost and also on the Gentiles: Peter already witnessed these moments, so he said to them: “And God, who knows the heart, bore witness by granting them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us.” This was the reason why he baptized Cornelius, the Roman centurion, and all the members of his house (Acts 10:44-48).

            (2) People are saved by faith in Christ, not by keeping of the law: God uses faith to purify their minds and hearts, not the law. Here, as also in Paul’s Letter to the Galatians, he compared the law as a slave’s yoke (Gal 5:1): "He made no distinction between us and them, for by faith he purified their hearts.Why, then, are you now putting God to the test by placing on the shoulders of the disciples a yoke that neither our ancestors nor we have been able to bear?" He meant that even the Jews, including them, couldn’t keep all the laws. This is exactly the reason why Christ came to liberate them from this yoke, and substituted the law with the faith in him.

            (3) People are saved by God’s grace, not by human efforts: Both Peter and Paul experienced their weakness and shortcomings, they weren’t afraid to accept them and emphasized on God’s grace. Peter declared: “On the contrary, we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they.”

1.2/ James’ opinion, the episcopos of Jerusalem: Though he was a strict observance of the law, he also defended the Gentiles.

            (1) The Gentiles are also incuded in God’s plan of salvation: First of all, he declared that the Gentiles are also included in God’s plan of salvation as the prophets announced long time ago. He illustrated the prophet Amos’s prophecy: “After this I shall return and rebuild the fallen hut of David; from its ruins I shall rebuild it and raise it up again,so that the rest of humanity may seek out the Lord, even all the Gentiles on whom my name is invoked” (Amo 9:11-12; cf. Jer 12:15).

            (2) James’ conclusion: “It is my judgment, therefore, that we ought to stop troubling the Gentiles who turn to God,but tell them by letter to avoid pollution from idols, unlawful marriage, the meat of strangled animals, and blood.”

            - Avoid pollution from idols: The belief that if anyone eats the meat that sacrificed to idols, he shall be liked him. Similarly, if the faithful eat and drink Christ’s body and blood, they shall become like Christ (1 Cor 10:20). Therefore, a person can’t attend both God’s table and the idol’s table (1 Cor 10:21). Paul also said that when someone eats such kind of food, there is no sin because there is no other gods except God, but shall cause a scandal for those who have a weak faith (1 Cor 8:1-13).

            - Avoid fornication (porneia) (Lev 18:6-18:26): This is included in the sixth and the nineth commandments. There are some Greek people who don’t consider fornication as a sin. In such a nation, Christ’s teaching about purity is new to them.

            - Avoid the meat of strangled animals, and blood: To the Jews, blood is the symbol of life; to eat blood is to destroy life. Life belongs to God and men have no power over life (Lev 17:10-14, Gen 9:4). James wanted to advise the Gentiles to eat animals’ meat according to Jewish way which means they must cut the animal and let all its blood drain out.

2/ Gospel: The commandment of love is the foundation of Christianity.

            (1) The relationship between God and people is achieved through Christ: Jesus said to his disciples: “As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love.” If we need to simplify Christianity, we can call Christianity is the religion of love, “to love God and to love others.” Love is expressed through obedience, " If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and remain in his love." Jesus wants people to keep his commandments because they are good for people; but people don’t always recognize it.

            (2) The result of love is that people have fully joy: The purpose of Christianity isn’t to confine people in the law; but to help people to have God’s fully joy, as Jesus said to his disciples: “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.”

           

III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:                     

            - We are saved not by our effort to keep the law, but by our faith in Christ with the help of God’s grace.

            - The principal doctrine of Christianity is the commandment of love. God is love and He bestows His love for people through Christ, and He wants people to love each other with the same love.

            - The purpose of Christianity is for people to have God’s complete joy, not to confine people in rigid laws to burden them.

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