Easter: Thursday of the Fifth Week

“... but tell them by letter to avoid pollution from idols, unlawful marriage, the meat of strangled animals, and blood.” (Acts of the Apostles 15:20)

Origen of Alexandria (part 2 of Pope Benedict’s reflections on Origen) comments on this verse from the First Reading proclaimed at Mass today:

“Speak to Aaron and his sons and to all the sons of Israel, and tell them: If anyone who is from among the sons of Israel or from among foreigners, who happens to be among you, eats any blood, I shall place my spirit over the spirit which shall have eaten the blood, and I shall abolish it from among the people, since the spirit of every flesh is its blood. To you I have also given the blood so that by it upon the altar there might be propitiations for your spirits, since the blood will make expiation for the spirit. Therefore, I have said to the sons of Israel: Every spirit among you shall not eat blood, and any foreigner among you shall not eat blood.” You see, therefore, that this law regarding blood, given equally to both the sons of Israel and to foreigners, is even observed by us from among the Gentiles who believe in God through Jesus Christ. Scripture tends to call proselytes foreigners, as when it says, “The foreigner who is among you will rise up above you, while you descend below. He shall be your head, and you shall be his tail.” Therefore, even the church of the Gentiles took in common with the people of Israel the law regarding blood, for that blessed council of the apostles, understanding that these things had been so written in the law, then ordered and decreed in writing the teachings for the Gentiles that they abstain not only from what had been sacrificed to idols and from fornication, but also from blood and from what had been suffocated. Now perhaps you will ask, “If Scripture was so clear with regard to blood, should it not also teach clearly about what has been suffocated, whether a law was given as common to the people of Israel and to foreigners, since the teachings of the apostles decree that Gentiles also observe this law?” Listen how observantly even this is guarded against in the laws of God: “If a man, any man,” it says, “from the sons of Israel and from the foreigners among you, hunts a beast or a bird, let him pour out its blood and cover it with earth, for the spirit of every flesh is its blood.”” (Commentary on Romans, 2)

O God,
by whose grace,
though sinners, we are made just
and, though pitiable, made blessed,
stand, we pray, by your works,
stand by your gifts,
that those justified by faith
may not lack the courage of perseverance.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
Who lives and reigns with You
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The Lord is risen. Alleluia!
He is risen, indeed. Alleluia!

Glory to the Father
and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen