The talk of circumcision in the first reading from Acts of the Apostles makes most of us very uncomfortable. However, the struggle of the Apostles to understand who is and who is not included in the Kingdom of God is, in this biblical context, all tied to who is or who is not circumcised. Obviously, the reference only pertains to males. But let’s not lose the point.
What is glorious, as we make our way through the Acts of the Apostles during this Easter time, is that Acts is really a story about how the Apostles make sense of what they know about Jesus and his teaching, and how they apply what they know to new situations along the way. Jesus promised them the gift of the Holy Spirit not a roadmap. They have to figure things out as they go.
In the first reading, Peter is relaying a revelation about the generosity of God welcoming all—Jews and Gentiles—into the Kingdom of God. Peter says, “Who was I to be able to hinder God?” And those who doubted then believed. They understood that all are welcome, circumcised or not.
In our own time, we pretend to be so sure about who is in and who is out. Who is right and who is wrong. Who is included and who is excluded. It may not be about circumcision, but it might be about conservative or liberal, gay or straight, Black or White, rural or urban, documented or not, married or divorced.
What inspires me—and gives me hope—is that God is gracious and welcoming no matter who we are. And the Apostles began to realize this. They lived in a culture that defined itself too often by who was in or who was out, a part of their community or not. Soon, they began to understand that Jesus is calling them—and us—to include, not exclude. Let us welcome, not shun others and rejoice in how the Spirit draws diverse peoples together into community.