Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along with me. I went up in response to a revelation. Then I laid before them (though only in a private meeting with the acknowledged leaders) the gospel that I proclaim among the Gentiles, in order to make sure that I was not running, or had not run, in vain.
On the contrary, when they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel for the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been entrusted with the gospel for the circumcised (for he who worked through Peter making him an apostle to the circumcised also worked through me in sending me to the Gentiles), and when James and Cephas and John, who were acknowledged pillars, recognized the grace that had been given to me, they gave to Barnabas and me the right hand of fellowship, agreeing that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. They asked only one thing, that we remember the poor, which was actually what I was eager to do.
But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood self-condemned; for until certain people came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But after they came, he drew back and kept himself separate for fear of the circumcision faction. And the other Jews joined him in this hypocrisy, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. But when I saw that they were not acting consistently with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, "If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?"
Praise the Lord, all you nations,
glorify him, all you peoples! (R./)
For steadfast is his kindness toward us,
and the fidelity of the Lord endures forever. (R./)
Jesus was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, "Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples."
He said to them, "When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us. And do not bring us to the time of trial."
Paul is absolutely convinced that baptised gentiles have equal standing with Jewish Christians, as members of the church and "coheirs" with Jesus. Armed with this certainty, he explained to the church leaders the gospel as he preached it in foreign lands. As he says in a verse that we will read later this week: Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female, all are one in Christ Jesus (Gal 3:28). For new converts, the Jewish law of circumcision and all their dietary laws no longer applied. This new freedom from old laws was so vital to Paul, that when Peter came to Antioch and would not sit down to eat with gentile converts, Paul spoke out strongly against Peter, "for he was clearly in the wrong." The subsequent rapid spread of the church would not have been possible, if Peter and others had not seen that on this issue Paul was right.
Like Peter, it is tempting to dither regarding the equal rights of other people. Our general good will can be blocked by fear of diversity. In order to let go of any negative conservatism and fully support Gospel freedom, we need to pray for discernment and guidance. The Lord's prayer will really help, even in Saint Luke's shorter version. To pray: "Give us each day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins as we forgive.." is a good antidote even today, to any artificial barriers in our church.
In yesterday's gospel Mary was commended for listening to the word of the Lord. Jesus himself was devoted to prayer, even during his very active life. His prayerfulness led his disciples to want to as he did. 'Lord, teach us to pray,' they asked. They felt that if they were to pray really well they would need special help. Prayer is not just a human activity; it is the Lord's activity in us, through the Spirit.
The disciples' request, 'Lord teach us' is a prayer in itself. The way he taught them has been called the 'Lord's prayer' and it teaches some basic principles of prayer. It starts with a focus on God's gloryand God's will, before asking for all that we need. It's a pattern for all of our prayer. We first worship our Father-God and then entrust him with all our needs.