The Lord asks for justice, goodness, humility


Sixth Sunday of Easter (Year C) May 22 (Acts 15:1-2, 22-29; Psalm 67; Revelation 21:10-14; 22-23; John 14:23-29)

What must be done to be saved? It is an age-old question and is fraught with many related problems. What does it mean to be “saved,” and from what? This is not as obvious as it seems at first glance, as there have been different answers to these questions depending on when, where and under what conditions they were asked.

Human beings are capable of finding their own answers to these questions, whether God has been consulted or not. Many interfere for God, establishing who can have access to God and under what conditions. This reinforces the identity of the group and provides a list of outliers and potential enemies.

These are human traits, and all religions are guilty to varying degrees. We can see this tension in early Christianity. Strict performers and extremists abound in every era, and in this story a group of them attempt to stop what they saw as a serious lowering of the bar by controlling the damage. And these were strict measures: circumcision and full observance of the Law were obligatory to enter the community of believers of Jesus. The freshness and innovation of the movement could have been dulled and compromised. At the so-called Jerusalem Council that followed, the rulers chose common ground, demanding only the bare minimum for Gentile converts.

As we face similar challenges and crises today, the principles of openness, flexibility and lightening the burden of others must be given new life. There has always been a current of openness and simplification on God’s part throughout the Old Testament. A prime example is the beautiful encouragement of Micah 6:8: “He hath spoken unto thee, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you, but that you do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God?

The decision of the meeting was that Gentile converts should abstain from meat sacrificed to idols, blood and fornication. All left the assembly in peace, but Paul’s version of the meeting, written a generation earlier in the Letter to the Galatians, tells a different story. Accusations of heresy, treason and cowardice flew through the air. Even then, opposing groups and views struggled to achieve a union of minds and hearts.

The imagery in the Book of Revelation can dazzle and inspire, but also leave us wondering what it all means. Rather than trying to crack the code for each verse, it’s more helpful to step back and take a broad, panoramic view.

John saw the holy city of Jerusalem descend from heaven clothed in mystical symbolism. But the most significant characteristic of the city is the absence of a temple or any external source of lighting. There is a simple reason: the Heavenly Jerusalem is not a place or something that we only experience after we die. This is the goal of our spiritual evolution—a state in which the divine presence is realized with each of us to such a degree that we no longer need to seek God outside. We will be our own temple and light.

How can we set things in motion so that we begin our journey? John’s gospel is clear: we invite God to dwell in us when we choose to walk with God continually, not just in disconnected bits of time. “Loving God” is a term often thrown about carelessly without awareness or understanding of its all-consuming nature or its rigorous demands. Love in this sense means loyalty, fidelity and commitment. Our walk with God becomes more than a religion but a way of life.

When Jesus and the Father come to settle in the heart and soul of man, they bring a surprise guest: the Holy Spirit or Paraclete, to both console and instruct. The fullness of the house of God with the human heart and soul removes fear and grants an indescribable peace totally unlike anything the world can give. We are a wonderful work in progress, but only if we allow ourselves to be moved by the Spirit of God and transformed.

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