13 May, 2020

But some believers who belonged to the sect of the Pharisees stood up and said, “It is necessary for them to be circumcised and ordered to keep the law of Moses.”

~ Acts 15:5 ~

But is that really so?


As a small sect rooted in Judaism it made sense, in a way, to declare that all non-Jewish converts had to be circumcised to become members of the Christian Community. Then again, was it necessary? This debate that we read of this week speaks to an important challenge for believers today: how far are we to be bound by tradition?


So many traditions in religious communities are practices that once had a purpose – but no longer. They represented what people thought and believed about the world around them, about race, gender, culture, science, health, the universe. These beliefs were ingrained, so taken for granted that we were assumed to be true for all time, so true that they became integral to the very foundations of people’s faith.


Jump forward a few centuries, or even two millennia and look at some of these fixed views. Many of them no longer seem so clear, so certain. The earth is round, part of a small solar system in a minor galaxy on the edge of a gigantic universe. Sickness is no longer the result of magic or the revenge of an angry god. We could go on…


What are the traditions in our belief systems that need to be amended, revised and even discarded so that the core truths of faith may continue without appearing to contradict what we know to be true?


Loving God,


Send your Spirit to guide us in wisdom

To discern essentials from cultural trappings

And the courage to discard what is inessential

That we may worship you with coherence and integrity


Through Christ our Lord





Catholic Parliamentary

Liaison Office

Jesuit Institute
South Africa

Reflection prepared by

Fr Anthony Egan SJ

Fr Anthony Egan SJ (born Cape Town 1966; entered the Jesuits 1990; ordained 2002) has taught, full-time or part-time, at St Augustine College of South Africa, St John Vianney Seminary, Fordham University (on sabbatical) and the University of the Witwatersrand. The author/co-author of a number of books, book chapters, academic and popular articles, he is a correspondent for America magazine, a contributor to Worldwide and writes for spotlight.africa. He is also a commentator on local and international radio and television. He is an Honorary Fellow of the Helen Suzman Foundation. Extramural interests include Science Fiction, Theatre, Art and creative writing, including poetry.

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