Thursday, May 12, 2016

“A divided kingdom cannot defend itself from its adversaries. A divided person cannot face life in a dignified way.”

Scripture Text: (ACTS 22:30; 23:6-11)
Wishing to determine the truth
about why Paul was being accused by the Jews,
the commander freed him
and ordered the chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin to convene.
Then he brought Paul down and made him stand before them.

Paul was aware that some were Sadducees and some Pharisees,
so he called out before the Sanhedrin,
“My brothers, I am a Pharisee, the son of Pharisees;
I am on trial for hope in the resurrection of the dead.”
When he said this,
a dispute broke out between the Pharisees and Sadducees,
and the group became divided.
For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection
or angels or spirits,
while the Pharisees acknowledge all three.
A great uproar occurred,
and some scribes belonging to the Pharisee party
stood up and sharply argued,
“We find nothing wrong with this man.
Suppose a spirit or an angel has spoken to him?”
The dispute was so serious that the commander,
afraid that Paul would be torn to pieces by them,
ordered his troops to go down and rescue Paul from their midst
and take him into the compound.
The following night the Lord stood by him and said, “Take courage.
For just as you have borne witness to my cause in Jerusalem,
so you must also bear witness in Rome.”

Every time I read this account of St. Paul’s quick thinking, it reminds me of the many internal disagreements we experience in the Church.  We have our factions and our arguments about sometimes important but often enough not essential issues.  We condemn those who don’t agree with us and sometimes treat them with disrespect and even contempt.  We wrap ourselves in our convictions and are confident that those who don’t share our every belief are unworthy.

Paul was a man of deep conviction and strong beliefs.  Yet, he could acknowledge that he had been wrong in his beliefs about Jesus and he could embrace those he had once condemned.  At first he was convinced that the followers of Jesus were heretics and should be condemned, even to death.  After his encounter with Christ on the road to Damascus, he realized that Christ was the fulfillment of God’s revelation.  And that was just the beginning of the changes in his life.  He continued to grow in his understanding, changing his views on the law, moving beyond the Jewish community to the Gentiles, and recognizing in the sufferings and death of Christ the path to true life for all believers.  Paul is a remarkable example of someone with strong faith who could still really listen to the voice of God coming to him through the people in his life.

We are challenged everyday to give an account of our faith.  Unlike the Pharisees and Sadducees, we must not get caught up in internal squabbles and condemnations of others, but give visible witness to God’s love for all peoples.   May God give us a loving heart.

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