SAINT JOHN I, POPE AND MARTYR (OPTIONAL MEMORIAL)
[They] met together to see about this matter.
It was a matter of no little controversy. “The Way” had sprung from Judaism. But now Gentiles were also coming to believe the good news. And differences of opinion also had sprung up: must Gentiles be circumcised? The disagreement over circumcision was so impassioned that Paul and Barnabas traveled from Antioch to Jerusalem (about three hundred miles) to seek its resolution.
Each side of the debate had valid viewpoints. But rather than split up the early Church over them, the Apostles and elders sat down together. Together they considered the issues carefully. Together they prayed. And in maintaining that accord, they left a model for us to copy.
Resolving differences that threaten to cause conflict or division requires patience. It also requires peace and a confidence that God will guide the discussions. And it demands the self-control to listen to another point of view without jumping in to shoot it down.
It sounds obvious, but if you’ve ever differed with someone on a significant issue, you know it’s hard. Yet it is possible. The Holy Spirit will help you. The same Spirit who led the apostles to resolve their issues lives in you. The Spirit’s wisdom and understanding are available to you, especially in issues that threaten to cause discord. The Spirit in you produces fruit: patience to take the time necessary to think over difficulties; peace to calmly consider other points of view; and self-control to keep your temper or hold your tongue in discussions.
Ask the Holy Spirit to ripen his fruit in you. Examine your conscience in areas like patience, peace, or self-control. In moments of conflict, pause to ask the Spirit for the grace to bear the appropriate fruit. Listen for his voice through the other person, and try to see them as God sees them. Watch out for critical thoughts, resentment, or self-centeredness. Be slow to judge those who differ with you and quick to forgive. Above all, seek unity, as Paul and Barnabas did, even if it means a long, inconvenient journey to get there.
“Holy Spirit, cultivate your fruit in me as I seek unity in my relationships.”