Welcome Back to Banquet of the Word!
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We want to help everyone in “pew-land” get more out of mass.
Before today’s first reading in Acts, there is a story of a vision Peter had. Important!! This is similar to the vision that the prophet Zechariah had, and may be the perfection or fulfillment of his vision (I’m still researching this). Zechariah saw an enormous scroll flying across the sky in his vision; in his time, it was a scroll to curse the people because of their disobedience. In Peter’s vision, he saw heaven opened and something resembling a large sheet coming down, lowered to the ground by its four corners. Perhaps this is the fulfillment of Zechariah’s vision and instead of a curse, it is a blessing!
In Peter’s vision were all the earth’s four-legged animals and reptiles and the birds of the sky. A voice said to him, “Get up, Peter. Slaughter and eat, but Peter said, “Certainly not, sir. For never have I eaten anything profane and unclean.”The voice spoke to him again, a second time, “What God has made clean, you are not to call profane.” Now the 1st reading makes more sense.
Verses from Acts 10:26-28
(The 1st Reading is Old Testament. It always links to the Gospel.)
Notice in the reading how Peter refuses to be worshiped by Cornelius. People in the 1st century after Christ continue to be confused about how to respond to God’s holiness which is embodied by His priests (for priests are still sinners, and this is still an issue today).
– Instead of a sheet coming down over the sea or over the people, we see The Holy Spirit come down and cover the people. Like a security blanket though, not a curse. Peter notes at the end of the meeting that no one should be prevented from coming in and seeking shelter from this “blanket”, the Holy Spirit, through baptism.
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 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.
Psalm 98 The Lord has revealed to the nations his saving power.
(The Psalm is a “response” to what we heard in the 1st Reading)
for he has done wondrous deeds;
His right hand has won victory for him,
his holy arm.
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.
This reading reminds me of the film I recently saw called Paul the Apostle of Christ. It tells the story of Paul at the end of his life during his final imprisonment in Rome. In one scene, Christians who are forced to live in a small corner of Rome lest they be burned as torches. They want to retaliate after hearing about all the violence happening outside their compound to their fellow brothers and sisters. But Paul says NO. We must not retaliate and answer with violence. We must answer with LOVE. This is what today’s 2nd reading is all about. St. John calls us to love one another IN all things, THROUGH all things, and DESPITE all things (like our weaknesses and sinfulness!).
Beloved, let us love one another,
because love is of 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.
(The Gospel is the highest point of the Liturgy of the Word. That’s why we stand.
We are about to hear from and be instructed by Christ Himself.)
In keeping with the 2nd reading, Jesus tells the disciples to love. He is giving us a new commandment, and it fulfills and in some respects replaces, or “updates” the 10 commandments of the Old Testament. If we love really well and more perfectly, we can meet all 10 commandments. This of course, is very hard.
A word on stony hearts: God knew the Israelites had hearts of stone, so their capacity to love with hearts of flesh was less. In the Easter season, we know his plan – the passion, death and resurrection of His Son, has come to fruition. And our hearts are made more of FLESH because Jesus came to us in the FLESH to teach us what love is! We once had hearts of stone, but now that we know Jesus, we are called to something higher. LOVE: Simple to hear and understand. HARD to do sometimes, and requires a softening of our HARD hearts.
“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 have heard from my Father.
It was not you who chose me, but I who 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.”