“Reading 1 Acts 15:22-31
The Apostles and presbyters, in agreement with the whole Church, decided to choose representatives and to send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas.
The ones chosen were Judas, who was called Barsabbas, and Silas, leaders among the brothers.
This is the letter delivered by them:
“The Apostles and the presbyters, your brothers, to the brothers in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia of Gentile origin: greetings. Since we have heard that some of our numberwho went out without any mandate from us have upset you with their teachings and disturbed your peace of mind, we have with one accord decided to choose representatives and to send them to you along with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, who have dedicated their lives to the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
So we are sending Judas and Silas who will also convey this same message by word of mouth:
‘It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us not to place on you any burden beyond these necessities, namely, to abstain from meat sacrificed to idols, from blood, from meats of strangled animals, and from unlawful marriage. If you keep free of these, you will be doing what is right. Farewell.'”
And so they were sent on their journey.
Upon their arrival in Antioch they called the assembly together and delivered the letter.
When the people read it, they were delighted with the exhortation.”
Can you imagine a world where religion worked like this?
In my life, the Church has not worked this way. Every time I have obeyed all the rules I was given, I was given more rules, and more until my head spun with all of the things I could and couldn’t do, and could and could not think or feel or want or say or not say. I HATE that.
I hate the feeling of being convinced that no matter how hard I try God will not love me, and will not want me, and I will never be good enough for Him. That is the conviction I believe that Christ came to fight. He didn’t come to find “sinners” and call them out and yell at them, He lingered with them and showed them love and talked to them like they were people too. The only times He got angry or renounced someone was when they were putting burdens on others. The Pharisees judging everyone while they themselves were just as bad if not worse, the people trying to kill a woman for sinning. Jesus came to LOVE everyone, and to teach us to love everyone.
So what if religion took that into consideration more often? What if Catholics spent less time calling other people names and talking about how evil they are and instead, came to them in their pain. What it when we saw a meme about abortion or about homosexuality or a tv show or whatever, we took a second to think about the other person and how they feel, and we approached the situation with love.
What if we took into consideration that the entire world is a huge mess of confusion and so much information about what is and isn’t right and all of the contradicting rules are too much to constantly be throwing new ones at people, and we took a second to just tell them they are loved.
What if we let go of our pride about being “right” and knowing all of the truth better than anyone else, long enough to really understand what someone else believes?
I’m not saying that the truth doesn’t matter, but what I am saying is that the Spirit we are in this letter is a spirit of seeing the suffering of others and tending to it, instead of having impossibly high expectations of people and being cruel because of it.
There is a passage in the gospel that talks about people laying burdens on others that even they can’t carry, and it calls to mind the Catholics I have heard devastated and exhausted under the weight of everything they are asking everyone, even those who don’t even believe in Jesus yet to do. Some of the most judgemental Catholics I know are Catholics who have “fallen into grievous sin,” and are imposing their own grief and shame into other peoples lives.
What if we didn’t do that?
What if we just let Jesus be love?
What if He gave us everything He did to love us, not to consider every move we make sinful?
What if “Catholic Guilt” was not a thing anymore, but instead “Catholic love?”
What if we were as joyful as the Christians who celebrate Christ’s unconditional love for them?
What if we didn’t ask for a life free of any possible even not completely perfect act, but instead asked for a life dedicated to Love and living in Love?
What if we healed others and loved others in their pain instead of causing more?
Can we Be Jesus to others in our lives, so that they can feel the love we get to feel? How can we make that effort? How can we ease the burdens and sufferings of others in this world and accept them where they are at, like the apostles did in this letter.
Can we just decide together not put “any burden, just the necessities” on each other and instead spend our time and energy loving others and taking care of them?