Sunday Bible Reflections
The first Church council, the Council of Jerusalem we hear about in today’s First Reading, decided the shape of the Church as we know it.
Some Jewish Christians had wanted Gentile converts to be circumcised and obey all the complex ritual and purity laws of the Jews.
The council called this a heresy, again showing us that the Church in the divine plan is meant to be a worldwide family of God, no longer a covenant with just one nation.
We come to the wedding banquet of heaven by way of humility and charity. This is the fatherly instruction we hear in today’s First Reading, and the message of today’s Gospel.
Jesus is not talking simply about good table manners. He is revealing the way of the kingdom, in which the one who would be greatest would be the servant of all (see Luke 22:24–27).
Jesus doesn’t answer the question put to Him in this Sunday’s Gospel. It profits us nothing to speculate on how many will be saved. What we need to know is what He tells us today—how to enter into salvation and how urgent it is to strive now, before the Master closes the door.
Jesus is “the narrow gate,” the only way of salvation, the path by which all must travel to enter the kingdom of the Father (see John 14:6).
Our God is a consuming fire, the Scriptures tell us (see Hebrews 12:29; Deuteronomy 4:24). And in this week’s Gospel, Jesus uses the image of fire to describe the demands of discipleship.
The fire He has come to cast on the earth is the fire that He wants to blaze in each of our hearts. He made us from the dust of the earth (see Genesis 2:7) and filled us with the fire of the Holy Spirit in Baptism (see Luke 3:16).
We are born of the faith of our fathers, descending from a great cloud of witnesses whose faith is attested to on every page of Scripture (see Hebrews 12:1). We have been made His people, chosen for His own inheritance, as we sing in this Sunday’s Psalm.
The Liturgy this week sings the praises of our fathers, recalling the defining moments in our “family history.” In the Epistle, we remember the calling of Abraham; in the First Reading we relive the night of the Exodus and the summons of the holy children of Israel.
Trust in God—as the Rock of our salvation, as the Lord who made us His chosen people, as our shepherd and guide. This should be the mark of our following of Jesus.
Like the Israelites we recall in this week’s Psalm, we have made an exodus, passing through the waters of Baptism, freeing us from our bondage to sin. We too are on a pilgrimage to a promised homeland, the Lord in our midst, feeding us heavenly bread, giving us living waters to drink (see 1 Corinthians 10:1–4).
Though we be “but dust and ashes,” we can presume to draw near and speak boldly to our Lord, as Abraham dares in this week’s First Reading.
But even Abraham—the friend of God (see Isaiah 41:8), our father in the faith (see Romans 4:12)—did not know the intimacy that we know as children of Abraham, heirs of the blessings promised to his descendants (see Galatians 3:7, 29).