When I read the narrative in Acts about the first “council” of Jerusalem, I read behind the text the confrontation between two opposing parties and their practices of evangelization. I also read the “parrhesia”, freedom of speech that they respected. Their concern and question was pivotal for the the future of the Christian communion. The issue were dietary, racial, tribal, ritual, the argument between the law and grace, and politics. Surely Luke only offers his account in an incomplete way, choosing set speeches, a Hellenistic way of writing history. Peter speaks first; the conversion of Cornelius already completed. Then James re-interprets the law. The upshot: the Gentiles ought to be invited to the table.

Half of this first reading from Acts is the Letter given to Paul and companions to bear to Antioch.

Note that practice comes before dogma. Peter and Paul had already been welcoming Gentiles into the Sacraments of Initiation. After the practices, follows the teachings. In reality this is still the order today of development. Although there is some resistance to change, this is the way of the Holy Spirit. The Jerusalem church was hesitant but not afraid to take this major step in evangelization; the Church today should have the same conviction and courage.

Alan Hartway

Theological Studies at Catholic Theological Union, Chicago IL; Master of Fine Arts, Poetics, at Naropa University, Boulder CO 1996; Master of Arts, Greek Classics, University of Colorado, Boulder CO 2012; Taught at Naropa University from 1999 through 2015; Chair of Interdisciplinary Studies from 2007-2015; Member of the Missionaries of the Precious Blood, Kansas City Province since 1974; Pastor at Guardian Angel Catholic Church, Mead, CO, ministry from 2007-2020 Currently Retired

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