Paul went on also to Derbe and to Lystra, where there was a disciple named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer; but his father was a Greek. He was well spoken of by the believers in Lystra and Iconium. Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him; and he took him and had him circumcised because of the Jews who were in those places, for they all knew that his father was a Greek. As they went from town to town, they delivered to them for observance the decisions that had been reached by the apostles and elders who were in Jerusalem. So the churches were strengthened in the faith and increased in numbers daily.
They went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. When they had come opposite Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them; so, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas. During the night Paul had a vision: there stood a man of Macedonia pleading with him and saying, "Come over to Macedonia and help us." When he had seen the vision, we immediately tried to cross over to Macedonia, being convinced that God had called us to proclaim the good news to them.
"If the world hates you, be aware that it hated me before it hated you. If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own. Because you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, "Servants are not greater than their master." If they persecuted me, they will persecute you; if they kept my word, they will keep yours also. But they will do all these things to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me."
Today's readings combine idealism with reasonable compromise and adaptation. A high level of loyalty was required in order to belong to the early church, but they could, in face of real difficulties, find workable compromises on what at first seemed insurmountable points of dispute. After vigorous debate, the Jerusalem disciples allowed that gentile converts to membership of the Christian church. Both the decision of the Jerusalem Council and the call to love without limit are at the prompting of the Holy Spirit.
Some people regard all compromise as tainted and asopposed to fidelity. Yet the message of the Jerusalem Council was: "It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and ours too, not to lay any burden beyond that which is strictly necessary." The word strictly indicates some relaxing of the rules; but it was a Spirit-inspired compromise that helped resolve one of the sharpest threats ever faced by the church. If the conservative Jewish Christians had repudiated Paul's visionand held to a narrow view of church, Christianity would have remained a small satellite of Judaism, and never blossomed into what Jesus intended; the new covenant for the whole world.
The church faced this crucial test of her nature and mission by calling an assembly of the whole church in Jerusalem, under direction of the apostles and elders. That Council followed the policy of open discussion, so that everyone bore the responsibility of the decision. It also voted for freedom wherever possible. Conservative Christians disliked the compromise reached at the Jerusalem Council. Practices of piety and devotion, styles of worship and prayer that were received from their ancestors would no longer be binding on gentile members who would soon far outnumber the Jewish Christians. The torch was being passed to a new generation. If it is a moment of growth it was also a moment of pain and separation. It makes one wonder what kind of compromises are called for in our church, today.
Friendship is one of the great blessings of life. Friendships don't just happen; two people have to choose each other as friends, on the basis of a mutual attraction of some kind, a set of common interests, a shared way of looking at things. Friends tend to share deeply with each other. In today's gospel, Jesus calls his disciples friends, "I shall not call you servants any more.. I call you friends." He goes on to say to them, "You did not choose me, no, I chose you." The Lord has taken the initiative to befriend them; he has chosen them as friends. The Lord has chosen to befriend all of us. He has demonstrated his friendship by sharing deeply with us; he has revealed to us what is most personal to him, his own relationship with God his Father. He has also demonstrated his friendship by emptying himself on our behalf, by laying down his life for us. He has done his part, but if the friendship is to happen, we need to do our part. We need to choose him as he has chosen us; we need to befriend him as he has befriended us. We need to remain in his love, his friendship. According to the gospel, that will entail loving one another as he has loved us, befriending one another as he has befriended us.
Edmund Ignatius Rice (1762-1844), from County Kilkenny, was a dedicated educationalist, the founder of two religious institutes of religious brothers: the Congregation of Christian Brothers and the Presentation Brothers.