In today’s first reading, Acts 15: 7-21, Peter participates in the debate about whether to demand that the Gentiles be circumcised before being baptized in Christ Jesus. Eventually, Peter gets up and says to the Apostles and the presbyters: “My brothers, you are well aware that from early days God made his choice among you that through my mouth the Gentiles would hear the word of the Gospel and believe.” Peter then makes it clear to his hearers that they are not to put “God to the test” by placing on the shoulders of the disciples a yoke that neither [their] ancestors nor we have been able to bear.” “On the contrary,” Peter says, “we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they.” Salvation, in other words, Peter is saying, does not come through circumcision. “The whole assembly fell silent, and they listened while Paul and Barnabas described the signs and wonders God had worked among the Gentiles through them.”
You and I have also been put in positions that require that we use our authority appropriately, as did Peter in this instance. As in Peter’s case, there are times when we need, or will need, to take a stand and speak the truth as it comes to us through the Spirit of God at work within us. Peter goes against established tradition—that all be circumcised as a sign of the Covenant. We may want to hold onto traditions in the Catholic Church that have been established centuries ago but which need to be set aside in accord with the Spirit’s direction in the 21st century. Are we willing to stand up for what the Lord is asking of us now, as does Pope Francis, when age-old traditions are being questioned?
What is God asking you to take a stand on that might put you at odds with those clinging to a tradition being brought into question? Remember: we are not talking about Church dogma or the Ten Commandments, but of traditions that can change over time as the Spirit leads us in new directions for the salvation of the world.
Whatever challenges God is putting before you, take those into prayer and talk to God about them. Get God’s feedback in prayer and the feedback of appropriate authorities in the Church, in your religious community, in your family! Talk to your spiritual director or to others whom you trust and who seek counsel from the Holy Spirit, from Jesus and from the Scriptures. Share what you are hearing in prayer, what the Scriptures are saying to you as you contemplate the Word. Are your beliefs being confirmed? Not confirmed? If not confirmed, go back into prayer and seek further counsel!