Thursday of the Fifth Week of Easter
Acts chapter 15 describes the council of Jerusalem, where the apostles and the elders discussed how to handle gentile converts to Christianity. First, there was a debate, then a dogmatic point from Peter about salvation by grace, then silence, then a description from Paul and Barnabas of the signs and wonders that God had worked. Then there was some scripture and ultimately a judgment from James. Finally, they chose messengers and composed a letter that encapsulated their decision. It all sounds like fairly normal bureaucratic practice, bearing in mind, of course, the mysterious guidance of the Holy Spirit.
One thing that stands out from the council is that they heard a description from Paul and Barnabas of the signs and wonders God had been working through them among the gentiles. Before reaching a final decision, it was necessary for the council to reflect on how God had been active in people’s lives. This same dynamic can be found in the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola. The first point of the “contemplation to attain divine love” is “to bring to memory the benefits received, of Creation, Redemption and particular gifts, pondering with much feeling how much God our Lord has done for me, and how much He has given me of what He has, and then the same Lord desires to give me Himself as much as He can, according to His Divine ordination.”
Making a retreat or getting a spiritual director are concrete helps for reflecting upon the good things God has done in your life. Such reflection helps dispose you for God’s grace and for the guidance of the Holy Spirit.