Previously, in the Acts of the Apostles…
“… Peter proceeded to speak and said, ‘In truth, I see that God shows no partiality. Rather, in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightly is acceptable to him.”
All through the Easter season, we read from the Acts of the Apostles. This book is a sequel to the Gospel of Luke and tells the story of the early church. Each Sunday of Easter, we read a small snippet of Acts so it is challenging to get the context for each reading.
Here is some context for this Sunday’s reading:
Peter was deeply Jewish and knew Jesus as the Jewish Messiah. He was very skeptical about proclaiming Jesus to non-Jews. What did a Jewish Messiah mean for those who were outside of God’s chosen people? However, Jesus came to save ALL people. God sends a vision to Peter (Acts 10:8-16) which challenges the way Peter thinks about God and who God chooses to save. He had also sent a vision to Cornelius, a Roman centurion, who was a prayerful man who was friendly to the Jewish people. In Cornelius’ vision, God tells Cornelius to send his men to invite Peter to preach at Cornelius’ home (Acts 10:1-8). God is setting up a meeting between the Jewish world (in Peter) and the Gentile (non-Jewish) world in Cornelius.
This encounter is what we read about in today’s reading (selections from Acts 10:25-48). This section of Acts records the first Gentile conversion to Christianity. As Peter preaches, the Holy Spirit descends upon the members of Cornelius’ household gathered there. They begin to speak in tongues and glorify God (signs of the Holy Spirit’s presence). Peter is overwhelmed that God is acting among the Gentiles and these new Gentile converts are baptized on the spot.
God does not act as we expect Him to. He challenges Peter to be open to new movements of the Spirit. God reveals that He is the God of all people. No one should be excluded from the grace of God. Cornelius takes the risk to listen to the prompting of the Holy Spirit and then to a missionary of a foreign religion. He puts his future and career on the line and trusts the God he does not know or understand. His faith is rewarded.
Stay tuned for next week…
I would encourage you to finish reading the Acts of the Apostles in the next two weeks as the church expands to the ends of the earth. At Mass for the next two Sundays (Ascension and Pentecost) we return to the beginning of the story of Acts and explore Jesus’ promise of the mission of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:1-11) and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the apostles (Acts 2:1-11).
Parish Pastoral Leader