By Deacon Jerry Franzen at the Cathedral
Acts 10: 25-26, 34-35, 44-48 1 John 4: 7-10 John 15: 9-17
As sometimes happens with scripture selections that have been chosen
for our celebrations of the Mass, we may enter in the midst of a story
and get only certain chosen parts of the whole picture.
I think that we need a little more information for the story of Cornelius
in the first reading.
Cornelius was a Roman centurion, a pagan.
He and his family might have been described as “devout” pagans
for they worshipped their gods
and regularly gave alms to the poor, even the poor Jews.
Cornelius had experienced a vision in which an angel told him
to send some men to the town of Joppa, where Peter was.
They were to bring Peter back to Cornelius’ home.
In the meantime Peter also had a vision –
a vision of all of the animals of the earth.
In the vision God told Peter to slaughter and eat from the animals.
Peter protested three times that he would not eat of the profane animals,
because of the Jewish dietary restrictions.
God’s response each time was, “What God has made clean,
you are not to call profane.”
It seems that with Peter, once or twice is just not enough!
God had to beat him over the head with three admonitions.
Cornelius’ friends arrived in Joppa and explained to Peter
that he was to accompany them back to Cornelius’ house.
And Peter invited them into his house for hospitality.
But, Jews did not share hospitality with Gentiles.
Maybe that vision of the animals and God’s admonitionhad
begun to take effect.
Eventually Peter and some of his companions
went to Cornelius’ house,and this is where today’s first reading
enters the story.
The reading began with, “When Peter entered,…….”
It was Cornelius’ home that they were entering.
We then heard that Cornelius fell at Peter’s feetand Peter raised him up,
explaining that he himself was just a simple human beinglike Cornelius.
Wow! A Jew as low as a Gentile.
What we did not hear is that Peter explained at this point
that, though it was unlawful for a Jewto associate with or visit a Gentile,
God had shown him, in the vision with the animals,
that he should not call any person profane or unclean.
How could something God had made be profane or unclean?
This was a defining moment in the early Church.
The leader of the early Church, the first Pope,
had come to understand that God’s love is for all,
not just the Jewish people.
God’s love expressed in giving his only Son to suffer,
to die a horrible death and then to rise from the dead
was not just for the Jewish people.
Peter said,“In truth, I see that God shows no partiality.
Rather, in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightly
is acceptable to him.”
Then God emphasized the acceptance of the Gentiles
with an event similar to the one that happened at Pentecost.
He sent the Holy Spirit down upon all who were listening to Peter
and they began to speak in tongues.
Peter’s response was,“Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people (Gentiles) who have received the Holy Spirit as we have?”
And the first Gentiles were baptized.
It is evident that God loved Cornelius.
He certainly went to a lot of trouble for his conversion.
God really wanted Cornelius and his family,
and companions to be his children.
In the same way,God will spare nothing to have each of us be his children.
This story is all about God’s love for his children,
even though the word “love”does not appear in the First Reading.
But, I counted at least 18 occurrences of the noun “love”
or one of its verb forms in the other two readings.
In the Gospel, Jesus said to his disciples,
“As the Father loves me, so I also love you.”
The Father sent his Son to be the Savior of all.
Yes, he did suffer and die,but he also rose to return to the Father.
That is how the Father loved his Son.
Jesus loves us in the same way.
By our baptism,we too are sent to share in the ministry of Christ.
We too will suffer and die,but we can also rise to return to the Father,
if we follow Jesus and truly say,
"Not my will, but thy will be done.”
And later in the Gospel Jesus commanded,
"Love one another, as I have loved you.”
Jesus gave up his will, what he might have wanted in his life,
for God’s will, what God wanted for Jesus’ life.
And we are commanded to do the same:
Give up what we want in our life
for what God wants in our life.
*True love gives us a way to see our relationships
from God's perspective.
From a merely human perspective,
we tend to look at our relationshipsin terms of what we get out of them.
This person is enjoyable to be around;
This person rubs me the wrong way;
This person is always asking favors...
Imagine Peter saying, “That Cornelius, he’s a Gentile.
What would I look like if I associated with him?”
But when we understandthat the path to true wisdom and lasting joy
is Christ-like love,self-forgetful, self-giving love,
those self-serving considerations then begin to take a back seat.
When we are self-centered,we tend to be passive and reactive.
But when we are Christ-centered,we tend to be proactive.
We see relationships in terms of what we can give to others,
and that's much more dynamic and energizing.
Certainly, Peter realized
that he could do something really important for Cornelius.
Imagine starting the week by making a list of things you want to do for people.
It would change the whole tone of our week;
we would be lighting lights instead of dodging shadows.
You might think of one small thing
you can do to ease the burdens of your spouse;
or one small thing you can do to make your boss's or coworker's job
just a little bit easier;
or one small thing you can do to bring some encouragement and joy
into your parents' lives;
You might think of a friend or relative who is suffering,
and think of one small thing you can do to help support them.
This is what self-giving looks like in real life.
If you want a vision that is nearer to you look to your mother;
she certainly gave of herself for you.
If your mother is living, hopefully you have already done
or will yet do something for her this weekend.
If she is not living, say a prayer for the repose of her soul.
Is it really so simple? Yes.
It is within all of our reach,
if we are willing to step out of our comfort zones.
Jesus did it for us on the wood of the cross.
Today, this week, let's promise to do it for him
on the pavement of our daily lives.
* Last part taken and modified from: www.epriest.com for the 6th Sunday of Easter (B)