Sunday, July 6, 2014
Community of Disciples
Those who walk in the Neocatechumenal Way will always encounter problems. Problems are a part of life and found not only in the NCW, but in any type of community (whether it be family or work community). The Apostles also walked as a community, and they called themselves the "Way." This is where we got our name from - the very early Christians.
Acts 9:2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, that, if he should find any men or women who belonged to the Way,* he might bring them back to Jerusalem in chains.
Acts 22:4 I persecuted this Way to death, binding both men and women and delivering them to prison.
(The bold is my emphasis, and scripture is taken from the New American Bible.)
According to the New American Bible, the Way was "a name used by the Early Christian community for itself. The Essene community at Qumran used the same designation to describe its mode of life." In the Early Church, a "catechumenate" was a person who was under the instruction of the rudiments of Christianity. Taking its inspiration from the catechumenate of the early Catholic Church, by which converts from paganism were prepared for baptism, it provides post-baptismal formation to adults who are already members of the Church (See wikipedia on the Neocatechumenal Way website).
At any rate, the community of disciples of the Early Church were not perfect. They argued and disagreed with each other even after Christ ascended into Heaven. For example, there was a huge disagreement between St. Paul and St. Barnabus. Their argument was so intense that they went their separate ways (See Acts 15:36-39). And their argument was so trivial. However, the two eventually reconciled later on.
Another argument took place between St. Paul and St. Peter - the two greatest Apostles. To understand their argument, one needs to understand the situation during those times. At that time, the Jewish Christians did not get along with the Gentile converts. The Jewish Christians imposed their Jewish laws of circumcision upon the Gentile converts, and would not associate themselves with any uncircumcised Gentiles. After St. Peter visited Cornelius (who was a Gentile convert), he got into an argument with some of the Jewish Christians who criticized St. Peter for being in the house of Cornelius (See Acts 11:1-4).
Later, we see St. Paul (the Apostle of the Gentiles) strongly rebuking St. Peter for his actions. Imagine that, St. Paul rebuking the Prince of the Apostles! In Galatians 2, we see St. Peter sitting with the Gentile converts. When St. James and his Jewish friends came in, St. Peter moved away and sat with the Jewish Christians in order to avoid any conflict between the Jewish Christians and the Gentile converts. However, St. Paul saw this as discriminatory against the Gentile converts. So, St. Paul faced St. Peter and rebuked him.
Perhaps, Peter's example was not the best to the Gentile converts who was present there and saw his actions; however, we later find St. Paul eating his own words when he copied St. Peter's actions in order to avoid conflict with the Jewish Christians. In order to avoid conflict with the Jewish Christians, St. Paul had Timothy circumcised (Acts 16:3). And St. Paul was the one preaching that circumcision was not necessary. It took a council to resolve the problems between the Gentile converts and the Jewish Christians.
In our walk, we are like these disciples who disagree, fight, and argue. These disciples were no different from us. They walked in a community and encountered problems like we all do. Christ meant for his disciples to walk in a community because through a community, we eventually lean on Christ to help us overcome all obstacles just as the Apostles did. God gave us the grace to reconcile with the brother, to love the other, and even to die for the other. St. Paul and St. Barnabas later reconciled with each other. St. Peter and St. Paul were executed together in Rome. Despite arguments and disagreements in the community of the Early Christian disciples, they loved each other and willingly gave their life for Christ.