To watch Fr. Joe’s homily from the 6th Sunday of Easter: CLICK HERE!
In our first reading today we hear only a small piece of a 6 chapter story from the Acts of the Apostles sharing the ethnic and religious tensions that could have been fatal to the early Christian Community…
As more and more Gentiles (read non-Jews) believed in Jesus, the good Jewish Disciples went into a tizzy.
Jesus was a Jew and they believe in him as the Jewish Messiah. Their logical conclusion was that Jesus’s followers would conform to the regulations that defined the Jewish Tradition and the worst points of contention centered on: dietary rules and circumcision.
So the question was, are these rules essential for being a follower of Jesus? For Peter and the Church in Jerusalem the answer was yes… But, Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles (non-Jews), disagreed. How to solve the problem?
Get some sleep! All answer comes in a dream.
And one day Peter had a dream in which a luscious banquet of forbidden food was lowered in front of him, and a voice invited him to help himself. Peter scrupulously refused, insisting that “His faith was stronger than his appetite.”
The voice twice repeated the invitation and finally rebuked Peter saying, “What God has made clean, you are not to profane!”
Talk about putting the breaks on any notion that Peter and his friends may have had about making their own rules and binding and loosing!
And then in today’s reading we hear of the meeting of Peter and Cornelius. Peter knew Cornelius was not perfect, but he could not get that dream out of his head. And when Cornelius told Peter about a dream he had, they began to realize that God had set them up on a “blind date”.
As Peter talked about Jesus, Cornelius and his household were filled with the Holy Spirit. Seeing that, Peter says, “God shows no partiality… Whoever fears him and acts uprightly is acceptable to Him.”
And so having admitted that God’s Spirit cannot be bound by human rules, Peter baptized the Gentiles (non-Jews) on the spot!
Now God does not always intervene with dreams. So the community of believers had to re-think their sense of what determined who belonged to the community.
And in the end, they grew in understanding that there are no better criteria for belonging than what we hear in the St. John’s Letter and John’s Gospel: Love one another!
Jesus’s disciples came to understand that it was not they who chose Jesus; but Jesus who chose them, and ultimately us, to love as Jesus loved and loves eternally. To be chosen, and we all are, means ultimately to spread the love we have and continue to receive from God.
GOD is MORE… as a friend of mine wrote in his book “Saving the Catholic Church”. More than any real or imagined obstacle that human can impose. More than any barrier we think should exist…
This week as we go about our moment to moment living, where will God be reminding us to love more, to break down those barriers that keep us from loving one another, that keep us from being friends, neighbors, fellow citizens of planet Earth.
How will we include others this week (more than last week or last month or last year). How will we tear down those walls and open those doors that separate us in so many areas of life.
Just maybe the essence of being a follower of Christ is to realize we are chosen and then to chose to spread God’s love without distinction or prejudice or exception. AMEN and AMEN.