Homily for May 28, Saturday of the V week of Easter
Over the past few days, we’ve heard in the first readings how the Apostles and presbyters decided that it was not necessary to ask Christians of Gentile origin to follow the old Jewish law. In fact, Christ’s work of redemption opened a New Covenant that surpassed the Old and made most of its prescriptions obsolete, both for Jews and Gentiles who converted to Christianity.
This is what makes the first part of today’s reading today so interesting. St. Paul goes out to spread the word of the Apostles’ judgment on this issue, and he picks up a helper along the way, named Timothy. Now, Timothy had not been circumcised, because his father was not a Jew. Ironically, Paul has Timothy circumcised to make him more acceptable to the local Jews, even though the very message they are carry is that Jewish traditions like circumcision are no longer necessary.
This is not inconsistency on the part of St Paul. On the contrary, it’s a good example of an important lesson. On one hand, as the Apostles’ decision shows, it was not necessary to force Gentiles to conform to Jewish customs which, although very ingrained in the Israelites, were rendered nonessential by Christ. But on the other hand, we have to remember that we, as Christians, are carrying Christ’s message of love. In order to do that in our words and actions, we have to “be all things to all people”, as St Paul says elsewhere.
That means knowing how to compromise in nonessentials, to go out of our way sometimes to adapt ourselves to others. We cannot let our own way of doing things get in the way of Jesus’ message of love. As Jesus points out in the Gospel reading, we are are carrying His message, not our own. He often does not want us to do things “our way”, as in Frank Sinatra’s famous song. Timothy probably wasn’t enthusiastic about being circumcised, but he accepted it in order to spread God’s word better. St Paul had his own plans about where he would go to evangelize, and as the first reading says, twice God stopped him from reaching different destinations in Asia, and sent him instead to Macedonia. God’s ways are not our ways.
It is often not easy for us to adapt to other people, to set aside our own ideas, preferences, and plans, and follow God’s plan instead. And yet, as we can see from Paul and Timothy’s legacy, that is precisely when we are most successful as Christians. May God grant us all, guided by the Holy Spirit, to be all things to all people, true apostles of God’s love.