It is possible that you may have seen that there is a little controversy surrounding the Synod on the Family, the second session which will be this fall. Since in recent years such open discussions and disagreements have not always been publicly observable, we could think we are in a particularly challenging time in the Church. But controversy is nothing new for the Church. Over the course of its nearly 2,000 year history there have been moments when it was not clear what the course of action should be, or how to express the belief in a way that is authentic and consistent to the truth.
In fact, when we consider the most significant aspects of our lives, we might see that controversy can often be the pathway to clarity. Such a controversy is occurring in the first reading. Jesus and the disciples he chose were Jewish. When Paul is sent to non-Jewish areas of the world, and people believe, the question arises about the necessity of following the Jewish law, and more specifically, do Gentile followers of Jesus first need to be circumcised.
This was a critical question for the early Church. We saw the importance of the question when Paul confronted Peter, and when Peter explains his vision about all foods being clean. And just as the pope called a synod, Paul and Barnabas realize the question is bigger than just the two of them. And so they go to Jerusalem, where the Apostles can discuss the matter. The end result is greater clarity, even if the discussions, at times, might have been painful.