Scripture: Lectionary for April 22: Acts 11:1-18. Psalm 42:2-3. 43: 3-4. John 10:1-10:
We easily associate St. Paul with the heralding of the Good News to the Gentiles. St. Luke reminds us that St. Peter was one of the forerunners of bringing the Gospel to the Gentiles as we discover in the Acts of the Apostles in chapter 11. We have the magnificent story of Cornelius and the vision of Peter that tells him all foods are clean even those forbidden by the Torah. Peter had remained faithful to the ritual of not eating such forbidden meat from unclean animals. The vision leads him to the quarters of Cornelius who also had a vision of someone coming to him. The event is very important for he is the first named Gentile to be converted by Peter; the story will be remembered three times in the Acts (chapters 10,11,15). Luke is sensitive to the control of the Roman Empire and carefully handles the situation of Cornelius at Caesarea on the Mediterranean Sea. The fact that two visions are described by Luke indicates the very special guidance of God. This becomes for us a model preaching not to Jews but to Christians in the speech that Peter gives to Cornelius. But it is the action of the Holy Spirit that captures the true meaning of the conversion. This is a work of the Spirit in a man who had God-fearing motives, that is, he was probably a proselyte to Judaism.
“Peter points out (11:15) that it, exactly parallels the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost. The Holy Spirit produces the effect of baptism directly, without human intervention (just as at Jesus’ baptism according to Lk v.38, cf Lk.3:21)—again the divine initiative (as 3:9)—Peter could not but recognize it by baptizing them!” (Henry Wansbrough, O.S.B.).
Peter is also an apostle to the Gentiles. He gives them hope and confirms their desire by baptizing Cornelius. The narrative leads us to appreciate what will happen in chapter fifteen when the Apostles gather for the first Church Council.
In the Gospel of John, we continue the them of yesterday, Sunday dedicated to Christ as the Good Shepherd. Jesus tells us he is the gate by which we enter into the reign of God and he is the one who leads us out to our mission of bringing the Good News to others. We are to become model or good shepherds like Christ. We learn much from the examples found in the Acts of the Apostles that refer to the shepherding of Peter and Paul, who are apostles to the all humankind.
Copyright 2013 Fr. Bertrand Buby, S.M.