ACTS 15:15-1-6; JOHN 15:1-8

The first reading today from the Acts of the Apostles treats of a practical question of Church life regarding the Law of Moses.   Jesus himself is cited by Matthew as insisting on full observance of the law.   "No smallest part of the law shall be ignored, but it shall be fulfilled."   (Matthew 5:18) We know that this strictly worded opinion came, with experience, to be more broadly applied in certain cases by our Lord himself.   The most impressive one is the encounter with the mother of the sick child.   She was from the pagan world, not a Jewess when she asked Jesus to heal her daughter.   After sharply refusing her "One does not throw the children's food to the dogs", he is so impressed with her trusting faith in him that he completely changes his attitude.   He grants her request and healed her daughter miraculously at a distance.

Later, we find the leading apostles, meeting with Saint Paul in Jerusalem, also modifying the strict observance of the law, limiting its application sharply thus facilitating the integration of gentiles into the Church.   They decided on this broader approach in spite of the strenuous opposition of some Jewish Christians.   It would seem they accepted this apostolic decree, for there is no mention of a refusal or opposition to this authoritative decision.

What renders these past issues highly significant for our times is that there is at present a conflict among the Cardinals and Bishops of the Church regarding certain truths clearly believed and practiced since apostolic times.   The passage from Saint John's Gospel provides an appropriate response to this current threat to the Church's witness.   Jesus is cited as declaring "I am the true vine, you are the branches."   While there is no question of separation from the Church, yet weakening unity is surely a serious concern.   The most explicit instance is the recent decision of the German Cardinal and Bishops to admit excommunicated Catholics who are living in a second marriage contrary to the Church's discipline for centuries.

May our sharing in the Eucharist this morning strengthen our resolve to remain faithful to the practice of the apostolic Church, and unite us more strongly to the heart of Christ.

Abbot John Eudes Bamberger