April 30, 2012 - Monday of the Fourth Week of Easter

Today's Readings

In the reading from Acts, we see something called the sensus fidelium. Although Peter is the leader of the Church, appointed by Jesus Christ, the faithful Christians stand up to him. They stand up to him not because he did something they do not like but because he did something that they knew to be wrong. This is the sensus fidelium, the sense of the faithful people when something is wrong. It is not anyone’s personal opinion, not even a grassroots movement. The sensus fidelium never needs to organize. When all of the lay faithful just know that something is wrong, they ought to be listened to. We have a great example today in this reading.

Peter visited the house of a Gentile because Jesus told him to, but the people did not know that yet. When they see that he has done something which is forbidden by the law, they stand up to him. They do not stand up to him with shouting or violence. What we see here is so different from political conversations today. They tell him their objection, and then give him time to speak.

Peter explains what happened step by step. He is humble. He does not consider himself to be above explaining his actions to the crowd. He understands their objection, but they do not know the half of the story that changes everything. It is very good news: the Gentiles have received the Holy Spirit just like the Jews did. Anyone can become a Christian.

Peter learned the lesson well: he is one who has come to serve and not be served. He knows that he is absolutely in the right, but he still respects the sensus fidelium and explains the workings of the Holy Spirit. We see this still today as the Holy Father does not simply write decrees telling us what we should and should not do. He always writes long explanations that we should read, certainly read before we disagree with his conclusions.

When disagreements remain, they ought to be handled according to the example of the early Christians. Conflict within the Church is not like conflict outside the Church. Humility must be at the center. The crowd must be humble enough to let the leaders speak, and the leaders must be humble enough to explain their decisions to their fellow Christians.