Sixth Sunday of Easter
Acts 15:1-2, 22-29
Revelation 21:10-14, 22-23
Only rarely do people call the Pastoral Center to tell us how wonderful things are in their parish or how happy they are with the Church. They call about the events that divide the parish. At times like those, it is easy for me to say that nothing dividing us is as important as what brings us together. Still, I have learned (the hard way) that this point of view is not easily accepted by those whose unhappiness with others is central to their lives.
When I actually visit these same parishes I meet people of faith who tell me stories about the compassion found in their community. I hear tales of conversion and a faith that seems to permeate the community. The simple truth is that the same sentiments can exist in the same parish. It has always been that way.
There are times when we seem to think that this generation invented ecclesial dissent. We look to the early Christian Church and expect to find a structure free from strife and Christians totally in agreement with one another. But even then the community was divided.
The First Reading of today’s liturgy speaks about an argument that caused great controversy. Neither Paul nor Barnabas could supply the solution. They consulted. They appealed to those most respected by the entire community — the apostles and elders — and a decision was reached. They were troubled and unsettled. The Council of Jerusalem could explain the law; but the disciples were those who brought peace. The decision was less important than its acceptance by the community. There were those who disagreed and even some who separated themselves from the community. Reconciliation came to the believers.
In today’s Gospel, the Lord promises peace to those who follow him. This is the peace we communicate in his name. It is peace, first of all, within us.
Easter has traditionally been the season of repentance and reconciliation in the Lord and with the community. Reconciliation is the Lord’s gift to his people. It comes in a variety of forms. It comes in the Easter gathering of the family, the penance services of the parish, the Easter Vigil. Most of all, it comes in the celebration of the Eucharist. Peace is the foundation for our acceptance of life and the basis for our willingness to have the Lord “go away for a while.” When people cling to one another, the community is at peace.
The peace we proclaim at Eucharist is built before and after the celebration. It occurs in settling family arguments and childish spats. It happens in the parish meetings, on the parking lot and in the reconciliation room. The Lord Jesus is the arbitrator. To him we look for Easter joy.
Today we gather at the altar to identify and address the source of the disquiet within ourselves. We remember the Lord’s promise and pray for the peace he gives us. Then we reach out to one another. At Eucharist, we promise to bring peace to the world. The task begins in our own limited circle...with the reconciliation we can bring to others. Our own relationship with the Lord and with each other makes peace possible in the human community.