Wednesday, October 23, 2019
Catechesis on the Acts of the Apostles - 13. "God has opened the door of faith to the pagans" (Acts 14:27). The mission of Paul and Barnabas and the council of Jerusalem
Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!
The book of the Acts of the Apostles tells that St. Paul, after that transforming encounter with Jesus, is welcomed by the Church of Jerusalem thanks to the mediation of Barnabas and begins to proclaim Christ. However, due to the hostility of some, he is forced to move to Tarsus, his hometown, where Barnabas joins him to involve him in the long journey of the Word of God. The Book of the Acts of the Apostles, which we are commenting on in these catecheses, it can be said is the book of the long journey of the Word of God: the Word of God must be announced, and announced everywhere. This journey begins after a strong persecution (see Acts 11,19); but this, instead of provoking a setback for evangelization, becomes an opportunity to widen the field where to spread the good seed of the Word. Christians are not afraid. They must flee, but flee with the Word, and spread the Word a little everywhere.
Paul and Barnabas first arrive in Antioch of Syria, where they stay a whole year to teach and help the community to take root (see Acts 11:26). They announced to the Jewish community, to the Jews. Thus, Antioch becomes the center of missionary propulsion, thanks to the preaching with which the two evangelizers - Paul and Barnabas - affect the hearts of believers, who here in Antioch are called "Christians" for the first time (see Acts 11:26) .
The nature of the Church emerges from the Book of Acts, which is not a stronghold, but a tent capable of widening its space (see Is 54: 2) and giving access to all. The Church is "outgoing" or it is not Church, or it is on the way always widening its space so that everyone can enter, or it is not Church. "A Church with open doors" (Esort. Ap. Evangelii gaudium, 46), always with the doors open. When I see some church here, in this city, or when I saw it in the other diocese where I come from, with the doors closed, this is a bad signal. The churches must always have the doors open because this is the symbol of what a church is: always open. The Church is "called to always be the open house of the Father. [...] Thus, if someone wants to follow a motion of the Spirit and approaches by seeking God, he will not meet with the coldness of a closed door "(ibid., 47).
But this novelty of the doors open to whom? To the pagans, because the Apostles preached to the Jews, but the pagans also came to knock on the door of the Church; and this newness of the doors open to the pagans triggers a very lively controversy. Some Jews claim the need to become Jews through circumcision to save themselves, and then receive baptism. They say: "Unless you get circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved" (Acts 15: 1), that is, you cannot receive baptism later. First the Jewish rite and then the baptism: this was their position. And to settle the matter, Paul and Barnabas consult the council of the Apostles and elders in Jerusalem, and what is considered the first council in the history of the Church takes place, the council or assembly of Jerusalem, to which Paul refers in the Letter to the Galatians (2,1-10).
A very delicate theological, spiritual and disciplinary issue is addressed: that is, the relationship between faith in Christ and the observance of the Law of Moses. Decisive during the assembly are the speeches of Peter and James, "columns" of the mother Church (see Acts 15: 7-21; Gal 2: 9). They invite not to impose circumcision on the pagans, but only to ask them to reject idolatry and all its expressions. From the discussion comes the common path, and this decision, ratified with the so-called apostolic letter sent to Antioch.
The assembly of Jerusalem offers us an important light on the ways in which to deal with differences and seek the "truth in love" (Eph 4:15). It reminds us that the ecclesial method for conflict resolution is based on a dialogue made of attentive and patient listening and on the discernment carried out in the light of the Spirit. It is the Spirit, in fact, that helps to overcome closures and tensions and works in hearts so that, in truth and in good, they may reach unity. This text helps us to understand synodality. It is interesting how the Letter writes: the Apostles begin, saying: "The Holy Spirit and we think that ...". The presence of the Holy Spirit is proper to synodality, otherwise it is not synodality, it is parlor, parliament, another thing ...
We ask the Lord to strengthen the desire and responsibility of communion in all Christians, especially bishops and presbyters. Help us to live the dialogue, the listening and the encounter with the brothers in the faith and with the distant ones, to taste and manifest the fruitfulness of the Church, called to be at all times "joyful mother" of many children (see Psalm 113 9).
Greetings in Various Languages:
Je salue cordialement les personnes de langue française, en particulier les pèlerins du diocèse de Séez, accompagnés par Monseigneur Habert, et ceux du diocèse de Coutances, avec Monseigneur Le Boulc’h ; les directeurs de l’enseignement catholique de Vendée avec Monseigneur Jacolin et ceux du diocèse du Mans avec Monseigneur Le Saux ; les confirmés du diocèse de Bayeux-Lisieux avec Monseigneur Boulanger ; les lycéens du diocèse de Saint Etienne, avec Monseigneur Bataille. Demandons au Seigneur de vivre entre chrétiens le dialogue, l’écoute et la rencontre afin de manifester au monde la fécondité de l’Eglise appelée à être la mère d’une multitude de fils. Que Dieu vous bénisse !
I greet the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors taking part in today’s Audience, especially the groups from England, Hungary, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Indonesia, Israel, Malaysia, the Philippines, and the United States of America. Upon all of you, and your families, I invoke the joy and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ. May God bless you!
Herzlich grüße ich die Pilger und Besucher deutscher Sprache, insbesondere die Gruppe der Gläubigen aus Enniger und die Studenten der Hochschule der Polizei in Münster. Mit der Feier des außerordentlichen Missionsmonats bitten wir den Heiligen Geist, uns zu befähigen, die Tore des Evangeliums für alle Völker zu öffnen und uns zu authentischen Zeugen der göttlichen Liebe zu machen. Der Herr begleite euch auf euren Wegen!
Saludo cordialmente a los peregrinos de lengua española. Pido al Señor que refuerce en nosotros y en todos los cristianos, especialmente en los obispos y presbíteros, el deseo y la responsabilidad por la comunión, el diálogo y el encuentro con todos los hermanos, sin excepción, para manifestar la fecundidad de la Iglesia, llamada a ser Madre feliz de muchos hijos. Que Dios los bendiga.
Amados peregrinos de língua portuguesa, saúdo-vos cordialmente a todos, em particular os diversos grupos vindos de Portugal e do Brasil.Possa a vossa peregrinação a Roma ajudar-vos a estar prontos a fazer parte da Igreja em saída, dando um testemunho alegre do Evangelho e do amor de Deus por todos os seus filhos. A Virgem Santa vos guie e proteja!
[Dear Portuguese-speaking pilgrims, I cordially greet all of you, especially the different groups from Portugal and Brazil. Your pilgrimage to Rome will help you be ready to be part of the outgoing Church, giving a joyful witness to the Gospel and God's love for all his children. May the Holy Virgin guide you and protect you!]
أرحبُ بالحاضرينَ الناطقين باللغة العربية، وخاصةً بالقادمين من مصر، ومن الشرق الأوسط. إن الكنيسة ليست معقلًا مغلقًا، ولكنها خيمة قادرة على توسيع رحابها لتسمح للجميع بدخولها. إنها "كنيسةٌ مُشرَّعة الأبواب"، والكل مدعو لأن يشع نور المسيح في جميع أنحاء المعمورة. ليُبارِكْكُم الرب جميعًا ويَحرُسْكُم دائمًا من الشرير!
[I warmly welcome the Arabic-speaking pilgrims, especially those from Egypt and the Middle East. The Church is not a stronghold, but a tent capable of enlarging its space and giving access to all. It is a Church with "open doors", and each one is called to radiate the light of Christ throughout the world. May the Lord bless you all and always protect you from the evil one!]
Pozdrawiam serdecznie Polaków, a szczególnie Organizatorów wystawy, poświęconej kardynałowi Adamowi Kozłowieckiemu, otwartej wczoraj w Papieskim Uniwersytecie Gregoriańskim. W latach II wojny światowej był więźniem obozów koncentracyjnych w Auschwitz i Dachau. Później ponad 60 lat pełnił posługę misyjną w Zambii. Odważnie głosił Ewangelię, niezłomnie walczył o godność i prawa dla Afrykanów, inicjował budowę kościołów, szkół, szpitali i domów opieki. Niech dzieło tego wybitnego polskiego ewangelizatora otworzy nasze serca na potrzeby braci żyjących w krajach misyjnych. Z serca wam błogosławię.
[I cordially greet the Polish pilgrims and especially the Organizers of the exhibition dedicated to Cardinal Adam Kozłowiecki, inaugurated yesterday at the Pontifical Gregorian University. In the years of the Second World War he was a prisoner of the concentration camps of Auschwitz and Dachau. Later, for over 60 years, he carried out the missionary ministry in Zambia. With courage he announced the Gospel, he fearlessly fought for the dignity and rights of the inhabitants of Africa, he promoted the construction of churches, schools, hospitals and nursing homes. The work of this tireless Polish evangelizer can open our hearts to the needs of the brothers who live in mission countries. I bless you from my heart.]
APPEAL FOR CHILE
I follow with concern what is happening in Chile. I hope that, by putting an end to the violent demonstrations, through dialogue, efforts will be made to find solutions to the crisis and to face the difficulties that have generated it, for the good of the entire population.
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I warmly welcome the Italian-speaking pilgrims. In particular, I greet the Augustinian Missionary Sisters, who celebrate their general chapter and encourage them to follow the Gospel with renewed enthusiasm, always supported and enlightened by the grace of the Lord. I greet the delegation of the Municipality of Accumoli and the parish groups, in particular those of San Martino in Pensilis and of Avigliano.
Finally, I greet the young, the elderly, the sick and newlyweds. Yesterday we celebrated the liturgical memory of St. John Paul II; let us imitate this master of faith and evangelical life, an example of love for Christ and for man.