In today’s first reading we hear an argument between Jewish followers of Jesus and Gentiles over the issue of circumcision. The Jews believed that circumcision was required to be a Christian. The Gentile believers disagreed. Of course, over time the Church determined that circumcision was not a requirement to become a member of Christ’s church.
What is interesting about the debate is our natural inclination to focus on the external aspects of being a follower of Jesus. In essence, we sometimes are more concerned with form over substance.
Some who had come down from Judea were instructing the brothers,
“Unless you are circumcised according to the Mosaic practice,
you cannot be saved.”
Because there arose no little dissension and debate
by Paul and Barnabas with them,
it was decided that Paul, Barnabas, and some of the others
should go up to Jerusalem to the Apostles and presbyters
about this question.
They were sent on their journey by the Church,
and passed through Phoenicia and Samaria
telling of the conversion of the Gentiles,
and brought great joy to all the brethren.
When they arrived in Jerusalem,
they were welcomed by the Church,
as well as by the Apostles and the presbyters,
and they reported what God had done with them.
But some from the party of the Pharisees who had become believers
stood up and said, “It is necessary to circumcise them
and direct them to observe the Mosaic law.”
The Apostles and the presbyters met together to see about this matter.
The rules and rituals that give us comfort and guidance are important. However, we cannot neglect the interior experience of a deep and personal relationship with Jesus Christ.