In the first reading, we see the early Catholic Church begin to take a more formal tone. We see the marks of the Church: One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic. The first Church council, the Council of Jerusalem takes place. A Church Council is a gathering of bishops, theologians and other ecclesiastical persons in order to discuss, debate and regulated things pertaining to doctrine and discipline. The Council of Jerusalem brought up questions on whether or not Christians had to follow the old Jewish rites and purity laws. Jewish Christians were calling on Gentile converts to be circumcised and obey the Jewish rites and purity laws. The council called this heretical indicating that the Church is for all people and no longer part of single people: the Jews. Circumcision is an important ritual in the Jewish faith. We read of this in Genesis 17:14 and Leviticus 12:3. Circumcision was like a sacrament, if you will; or a visible sign of the covenant. By getting circumcised, this was a physical reminder that the Jew had to obey God and His laws. We do not need this anymore (1 Corinthians 7:18-19), though some medical professionals claim circumcision promotes good hygiene for a male. Women were not commanded to be circumcised because they obviously do not have the same parts as a male and the culture of the time made woman part of the man. Today’s readings remind us of the Holy Spirit working in the Church. The Council of Jerusalem and every other council thereafter have been decided by the Holy Spirit and the popes and bishop present. This is why today’s reading says, “It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us.” Unfortunately there are some today who call themselves ‘sedevacantists’ or ‘traditionalists’ who question the Vatican II council and its documents. By doing this, they question the Holy Spirit who guides the Church in truth (John 16:13). Even today, they are attacking Pope Francis over his Laudato Si and Amoris Laetitia documents. These people are just nostalgists who read Church documents via their cognitive bias and hurt the Church in the process with their calumny and misconceptions. This is an affront against the Holy Spirit whose coming we will celebrate soon on Pentecost.
In the responsorial Psalm, we are reminded that all nations will praise God. No longer will it be just one nation praising God. It will be a multitude of people that no one can count from every nation, race and so on; a ‘Catholic’ or universal people (Revelation 7:9). We must ask God to have pity on us and to bless us; to let His face shine upon us (Numbers 6:24-26). Via the Holy Spirit, God lets the way of salvation be known to all nations, not just Israel. In response, the nations must praise Him and wait on Him. We no longer need a temple because Christ is the temple, the Church: His body as we read in the second reading (1 Corinthians 12:27, Colossians 1:18). The second reading describes the Church as the new Jerusalem decked out in jewels and precious stones. This shows the glory of God. The twelve gates and angels represent the tribes of Judah while the gates facing east, north, south and west represent the Catholic Church which is universal.
Finally in the Gospel, we read of Jesus reminding the disciples to keep His word if they love Him. Those of us who do not keep Jesus’ words do not love Him nor the Father who sent Him. This is important in light of those who worship nostalgia in the Church and attack any council or document which they think promotes change or ‘modernist’ views. Moreover, Jesus promises the Advocate or Holy Spirit. He will come from the Father in the name of the Son and will teach the disciples and remind them of what Jesus told them. Here Jesus is telling the disciples of Pentecost which we will celebrate soon. The Holy Spirit is with the Church protecting Her. He is reminding Her constantly of Jesus’ words and teaching her how to respond to the world throughout each century. Despite this, some still think the Church has gone ‘modernist,’ or defected. The Church is still the Church and spread the Gospel in the way each century can understand it. Documents addressing global warming or the situations couples find themselves in today do not attack or contradict the Sacred Deposit of the Church. We must understand this and not let bias or nostalgia take control for God makes things new (Revelation 21:5). Jesus promised the Holy Spirit to the Church and promised that the gates of hell shall not prevail (Matthew 16:18). If you are a Catholic, you would believe this and not question Christ’s promise by being suspect of everything a pope my write or even say. History is witness to the fact that even when we had heretical popes and bishops, the Church still survived. May the Holy Spirit continue to speak to us and teach us; remind us of what the Lord said and give us the gifts and charisms necessary to preach the Gospel in season and out of season.