From Mindless Followers to Mindless Meddlers to the Mind of God | Word from the Shepherd No. 176

6th Sunday Easter | Year C
Acts.15:1-2,22-29; Apoc. 21:10-14.22-23; Jn. 14:23-29

A student said to his meditation teacher, “My meditation is horrible. I feel distracted. My legs ache. I constantly fall asleep. It’s just horrible.” The teacher said, “It will pass.” A week later the student returned, exclaiming, “It’s wonderful. I am not distracted. It’s so peaceful. It’s so wonderful.” The teacher simply said, ”It will pass.” -unknown-

It is the same with ‘BURDENS’ and ‘ESSENTIALS’. What we view as ‘burdens’ today, eventually they will pass. What we consider as ‘essential’ will pass too. The early Christian Community at Antioch was in disagreement. There was a division and difference of opinion about salvation; what saved. A group of meddlers, with no authority, were disturbing the pagans. They were insisting on the traditions of Moses, that circumcision was a necessity for salvation. They had forgotten that salvation belongs to the Lord. The mindless meddlers never grasped the mind of God.

Focus on burdens and essentials created many disagreements, controversies and conflicts in church history and Christian community settings. They will always be there.  Varying preferences reflect many religious communities- some want frills, some stick to superficials, others like ‘add-ons’ and a few seek the essential. The struggle between the essentials and non-essentials continues at all levels of life.

Why this tension? Why this divisiveness in Church communities? An author remarked that there is a ‘seductive temptation to identify the will of God with the will of the believer’. It is manifests itself as patriotism, leftism, capitalism, feminism, clericalism, financial success or ecclesiastical traditions. In their extreme forms, we see some leave their spouses or kill for their belief or break promises or become bigots and religious terrorists by seeing it as the will of God. They end up as mindless meddlers.

The early church dealt with these emerging controversies or divisive teachings decisively in the Spirit present in the believing community. Conflict resolutions, responsible leadership, respect for all community members and decision ‘not to lay burdens beyond strictly necessary’ resolved issues in a growing and diversified church.
The dynamics included the following:

  1. the leaders acknowledged the problem,
  2. they reviewed the experiences and signs among the gentiles,
  3. they interpreted the experiences of God@work in the New Israel with scriptures (thus the reference to James who cites Amos 9:11-12… Israel restored…. Gentiles gathered in),
  4. Council at Jerusalem decided on “salvation”; that mission to the gentiles is the will of God; that all must cooperate with the divine initiative.
  5. A policy is adopted; that honours tradition and adjusts to changing circumstances,
  6. then, finally the pronouncement in the Spirit is made.

The meditation teacher is right. Everything is passing. It requires us to juggle with this unchanging reality that what is horrible today may turn to be our joy tomorrow, and our joy will become sorrow. And common factor is in their passing. Burdens will pass, replaced by relief. Essentials will pass and a new essential will rise. The “essential of all essentials” is that there is a God who loves us, who sent the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ; who sent the Spirit. The Spirit of God teaches us everything; reminds us of all things; gives us His own peace that the world cannot give; that takes away every fear- that we may believe. Horrible or wonderful; burden or essential; add-ons or ala carte – salvation belongs to the Lord. Only God saves. And love covers a multitude of sin.

Beyond the Passing. See the Mind of God in all things.