God’s Love Is For Everyone
Acts 15:7-21; John 15:9-11
The reading today on Acts 15 is based on what transpired in our earliest religious council long before the Vatican existed- the Council Of Jerusalem. The people were debating over the practice of circumcision, as to whether non-Jews should also observe it aside from Jews.
But what is circumcision all about? Circumcision is a commandment from God, based on Jewish beliefs (the first Mitzpah in the Torah) and the bible (Genesis 17). The Jews back in those days relied heavily on the first 5 books of Moses, also called the “Torah”, since there were no books written of Jesus yet after Jesus rose from the dead (It was still being written).
In the Jewish Torah, it is indicated in Nedarim 32a, which states: “Great is circumcision, for it is equivalent to all the mitzvos of the Torah.” The Jewish Mitzvos are precepts and commandments given by God. In our bible, which can be found in Genesis 17:11, it states, “You shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you.” So indeed, circumcision is very important.
Circumcision was only practiced by Jews at that time, and not including non-Jews. The Jews at the council were starting to feel less special and less loved by God, and they wanted to be distinct from the non-Jews to preserve their title as “God’s chosen ones”. They were questioning the right of circumcising these non-Jews. It was an act of exclusivity on the part of the Jews, a sign of selfishness for God’s love.
Peter, our first pope, stood to defend the non-Jews telling them God gave them the Holy Spirit so that they may have the power to spread the Good News to both Jews and Non-Jews, and that God makes no distinction among them.
Barnabas and Paul then testified to them of God’s greatness and what He has done for them. In addition to this, James also reminded them that even in the days before Jesus, God has favored the Gentiles, and he also quoted some phrases from Amos 9:11-12, reminding them that God has prophesied about rebuilding His kingdom and making it available to everybody, to show them that God has been open to everyone, not just Jews, right from the start.
The readings today are focused on loving others. Jesus reiterates His unity with the Father as He gave this commandment, “Love one another as I have loved you.” Having seen how Jesus loved the sinners, the sick and the ones who eventually had Him suffer and killed, that is a simple statement, and yet a very tall order. We may not die on the cross for others, but we can still do sacrifices that will give life to others.
We may be thankful for the love of our grandparents. parents and other relatives and friends. But sometimes love can be one-sided, especially when one fails to reciprocate with love to others. Love is not just about receiving but also giving. We should not show love to people who show us love alone, but to everyone else. This is what the our first pope and the rest of the apostles (now passed on to us) said, as guided by the Holy Spirit.
Jesus knows how hard it is for us to follow His ways, and knows that we will make mistakes. However, if we allow Him to teach us and guide us as He has loved us, we will always turn back to Him after we fall out of grace. The important thing is focus on Him and His ways, and be open to His grace and allow Him to help us.