Galatians 2:1-2, 7-14
This reading from Galatians reminds me of a long-standing practice in the Roman Catholic Church. Every bishop must render to the pope an account of the state of his diocese once every five years. This is called an ad limina visit, or a time for the bishops to visit the tombs of the Apostles, Peter and Paul, and to meet the Pope with a report on the state of their dioceses.
The apostle Paul is meeting again with Peter. It had been some time since their last meeting. In the previous meeting, both decreed that Peter, James and John would be the apostles to the Jews and Paul with Barnabas would be the apostles to the Gentiles. They all agreed that the Gentile converts did not have to be circumcised or follow all the ritual laws of the Jewish religion.
In Antioch we hear about a confrontation between Peter and Paul. Peter freely mixed with Gentiles and ate with them. But when some Jewish Christian came to Antioch, Peter refused to mingle with the Gentile Christians and refrained from eating their food. Paul became very angry at this compromising of an essential principle which had been worked out. Paul opposed Peter "to his face" and in the presence of everyone. Peter’s behavior was giving mixed signals and could result in dividing the Church into two communities which could not then celebrate the "breaking of the bread" together.
This incident reminds us that there is always tension in any organization, family or relationship. We need to adapt to changing needs, changing situations and a constantly changing world. No change means stagnation and ultimately death; too much change means loss of identity and purpose. It is difficult to keep a balance. At times we need a Paul opposing a Peter to their face. This is not to say that the "conservative" Peter is wrong and the "liberal" Paul is right (or vice versa). Truth usually lies somewhere in the middle.
Careful discernment is needed. A healthy sign to look for is that a compromise will promote unity. No individual person and no special group totally possess absolute truth. Let us pray that as disciples of Christ we be fully involved in the task of making God’s Kingdom of unity a reality for all.
The Passionists celebrate today the feast of Blessed Isidore De Loor. Born in 1881 in eastern Flanders, he joined the Passionist Community at the age of twenty-six. Cancer was diagnosed and his right eye was removed. The cancer had spread throughout his body however and Isidore was given only a few years to live. He was then assigned to answer the front door. As World War I took its toll on Belgium more and more visitors prevailed upon the monastery for help, which Brother Isidore was only too willing to offer. He died of cancer and pleurisy on October 6, 1916. Among the religious and the laity, Blessed Isidore was admired for his charity and simplicity, his dedication to work and his spirit of prayer.
Fr. Don Webber, C.P., is Provincial Superior of Holy Cross Province and resides in Chicago