When Peter entered, Cornelius met him and, falling at his feet, paid him homage. Peter, however, raised him up, saying, "Get up. I myself am also a human being."
Then Peter was 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."
While Peter was still speaking these things, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who were listening to the word. The circumcised believers who had accompanied Peter were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit should have been poured out on the Gentiles also, for they could hear them speaking in tongues and glorifying God. Then Peter responded, "Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit even as we have?" He ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.(P) The word of the Lord.
Sing to the Lord a new song, for He has done wondrous deeds; His right hand has won victory for Him, His holy arm. (R)
The Lord has made His salvation known: in the sight of the nations He has revealed His justice. He has remembered His kindness and His faithfulness toward the house of Israel. (R)
All the ends of the Earth have seen the salvation by our God. Sing joyfully to the Lord, all you lands; break into song; sing praise. (R)
Beloved, let us love one another, because love is God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God.
Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love. In this way the love of God was revealed to us: God sent His only Son into the world so that we might have life through him. In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as expiation for our sins.(P) The word of the Lord.
Jesus said to his disciples: "As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and remain in His love.
"I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy might be complete. This is my commandment: love one another as I love you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.
"I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I heard from my Father. It was not you who chose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name He may give you. This I command you: love one another."(P) The Gospel of the Lord.
"Love" is the word that we hear repeatedly in today's second reading and the gospel. A girl tells her boyfriend, "You are a great guy. I love you so much. Do you love me?" "Of course I do," the boyfriend replies. "Will you marry me then?" she asks. "Oh! Let's not change the subject now," says the boyfriend.
I want to wish all Moms a Happy Mother's Day. Dear Mothers! Please thank God for blessing you with wonderful children who love God and care for you. If you feel your children do not love you or care for you, forgive them and give them your best anyway for they are your children. Those women without children and those that are still waiting and wishing for theirs, today you are in our prayers as well. Yet, please remember you could offer a motherly love to hundreds of thousands of children who need the precious love of a mother but do not have one.
Since Easter we have been reading and reflecting on the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus and the apostle's proclamation of the gospel. Last Sunday we heard how the apostle Barnabas spoke on behalf of Paul and encouraged the other disciples to accept Paul's conversion as genuine and welcome him into their community despite his past reputation, Acts (11:19-26).
Today's text from the Acts of the Apostles is a sermon that Peter preached at the home of a man called Cornelius. He was a Roman army officer, a devout and kind man. He was the first non-Jew or Gentile who became a believer in Jesus. According to the account in the Acts of the Apostles, Cornelius who was at prayer, at about mid-afternoon, had a vision. In the vision an angel said to him that God was very pleased with all his prayers and kindness to the poor, (10:4), and in return for his faithfulness God would reveal His salvation to him. In preparation for this, the angel told Cornelius to send his servants to bring Peter to his home.
At the same time Peter had a vision of a large linen sheet, with various creatures on it, being lowered from heaven. Peter was horrified. A voice from heaven told Peter to get up and eat. But Peter refused because his religious beliefs told him some of the animals were unclean, (10:14). The voice said to him not to call anything unclean what God has made clean, (11:15). Then, the vision ended. Peter was puzzled about the meaning of the vision with the strange message from the voice. While Peter was pondering over what he had seen, Cornelius' men arrived at his home. Peter was perhaps reluctant to go with them because the Jews were forbidden to have any association with the Gentiles. But the Spirit encouraged Peter to go with the visitors to see Cornelius. Whatever the vision meant Peter believed that God had a purpose. He understood God was removing barriers which were previously set in stone by his culture and religion.
When Peter arrived at his house, Cornelius went out to greet him and fell at his feet in reverence. It's understandable why Cornelius reacted that way. There are probably two main reasons.
The message from the angel to specifically seek Peter could have made Cornelius think that there was something holy or supernatural about Peter.
Cornelius perhaps held a superstitious belief that some humans could sometimes become gods.
But Peter discouraged Cornelius by saying that he himself was also a human being. The vision offered Peter a chance to apply what he had learned. He said to Cornelius and others, "In truth, I see that God shows no partiality. Rather, in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightly is acceptable to him." In other words, Peter believed that God does not show favor to anyone. God's love is not prejudiced. God loves all people. God does not act with deference with regard to race, ethnicity, social class and gender in people.
This story was very important to the spreading of the gospel at that time. Until then Christian faith or community had been limited to Jews. But with the conversion of Cornelius the church began to embrace people from every nation and race. God used Cornelius, his family and friends to break down the barrier between them and the Gentles. The change did not come from some human-devised plan but God's will and guidance.
What is the lesson for us today? Let us look around the church today. Though we are of different languages, cultures, and from different geographical locations we gather together as the universal body of believers, of which Jesus Christ is the head. The world has certainly changed in many ways over the past two thousand and fourteen years, but unfortunately, discrimination, bigotry and prejudice are all too prevalent in all societies even today. Wherever we go we see people discerning and discriminating and favoring some over others. We segregate people based on race, color, language and culture. We may have legislated laws to prevent and combat all forms of discrimination. Yet, we all can experience discrimination in a variety of different ways.
For centuries the Church is known to have discriminated people based upon race, nationality, disability, sex or marital status. Despite our belief that God has created all humans as individuals and equals, many of us, as individuals and Christian communities, might be still demonstrating prejudice or bias in our relationships, in the election of community and church leaders, in more subtle ways. Peter's sermon is a reminder for us that anything that God doesn't do we should neither do. Our love of God must be constantly reflected on the love we give to others and must be absolutely free of partiality regardless of who they are. We cannot claim to have faith in our Lord Jesus Christ if we favor some people over others.
Today let us thank God for calling us to be part of the Universal Church and the opportunity to contribute toward the elimination of any expression of discrimination in our society. Let us rise above all forms discrimination, prejudice and bigotry and "love one another, because love is of God", 1 John (4:7a).(P) Amen.
God Bless You!