Fundamentalism of whatever sort usually manifests itself as an obsessive fear of ambiguity or change in life. Fundamentalists inevitably find security and self assurance in a black and white dogmatism that is more concerned about condemning the views of others rather than listening to learn from others. Fundamentalists have very little time to spend in discussion with others since they feel that they have all the answers to life questions. A fundamentalist does not want to be confused with facts. He or she is far more comfortable with the prejudices that bring security to their lives no matter how dark or controlling they may be.
Tragically, most of us have some familiarity with fundamentalism as it expresses itself in religion. Religious fundamentalism has inspired inquisitions, pogroms against Jews, and in our own day the Fall of governments and terrorist attacks throughout the world.
Though not completely freed from tendencies toward fundamentalism, on the whole the genius of Roman Catholicism has been its sense of openness toward ambiguity and change which is so much a part of human existence. Jesus did not come to straight-jacket his followers into a new law that would bind the human spirit but rather, as St. Paul reminds the early Christians, the Law of the Spirit is one of freedom, justice and love.
Our first reading today from the Acts of the Apostles presents us with an important example of how the followers of the new way confronted the rigidity of the old law. The questions which the apostolic Church had to contend with was whether converts from Judaism had to follow both the mosaic law as well as the teaching of Jesus? More specifically, must gentile converts be circumcised in accord with Mosaic Law? There were some in the Apostolic Church who said yes, and some who said no. The question was brought forward for prayerful discernment in Jerusalem. The answer was that new converts should not be "saddled with any burden beyond the essentials". In other words, gentiles coming to the faith would no longer be required to follow the exact prescriptions of the Mosaic Law that failed to free one for living the new way in Christ.
Down through the centuries, the Church has continued to exhibit this kind of dynamic openness to change, transformation and renewal. In the power of the Holy Spirit, the final gift of guidance and discernment which Jesus has left with Church, the Christian community has striven to respond to avenues and possibilities for growth in holiness that have been opened for her. Not always responding perfectly, yet the Spirit has continued to bring forth new life and insight in the Church. Through the witness and prophetic challenge of saints and mystics; through the solemn declarations of belief in twenty-one Ecumenical Councils; through the wisdom of theologians and philosophers; and through the gifted guidance of Pastors entrusted with the care of the flock of Christ, the Church has striven to be that place where peace beyond understanding can be found and celebrated. A peace that is rooted in the freedom of the children of God.
As we draw close to the great Feast of Pentecost - the birthday of the Church. Let us rejoice in a Church whose members are called to daily growth, transformation and change in the power of the Spirit. May we indeed express in our lives the love we celebrate here in Word and Sacrament.