6th Sunday of Easter (B)
April 29, 2018 by
David Jackson in
Reflections on Sunday Gospels
Easter 6 B
Today’s scriptures hold some powerful promises and creative challenges.
In the Gospel:
As the Father loves me, so I also love you…I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy might be complete.
I have called you friends.
…whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you.
In the second reading:
…love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God.
In this is love; not that we have loved God, but that he loves us…
In the first reading:
In truth, I see that God shows no partiality. Rather, in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightly is acceptable to him.
The first reading must be heard in its context. Chapter 24 begins with Cornelius having a vision. “He saw plainly in a vision an angel of God come to him…” He is told to send men to summon “one Simon who is called Peter.” The scene then shifts to the next day, “while they were on their way and nearing the city, Peter went up to the roof terrace to pray about noontime.” “He fell into a trance. He saw heavens open…” Peter is told to “slaughter and eat.” The problem is Peter says “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.’ This happened three times…” “The next day, he (Peter) got up and went with them.”
It is at this juncture that today’s first reading begins. The words that I quoted above in the promise section are spoken. Then wonder to behold, “the Holy Spirit fell upon all who were listening to the word.” “The circumcisedbelievers…were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit should have been poured out on the Gentiles also.” The Gentiles were speaking in tongues and glorifying God. Peter orders them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.
Many elements of this story point to its significance. Cornelius, a Gentile, saw plainly in a vision and receives a message from an angel. Peter in prayer falls into a trance and saw the heavens open. He makes the judgement that some things are profane and unclean. The voice a second time tells him “What God has made clean, you re not to call profane.” But once wasn’t enough, twice wasn’t enough, “this happened three times.”
We must not gloss over the beginning of Peter’s speech. “In truth, I see that God shows no partiality. Rather, in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightly is acceptable to him.” In our time these words take on a powerful new meaning for contact between Christians. But they must also be applied to contact with non Christian religions. The majority of people in our world are not Christians. We must hear these words as applying to that majority. They must also be attended to when we hear the words, “Unless you accept Jesus as your personal savior you cannot be saved.” These words contradict explicitly what Peter learned from his trance vision and the voice that spoke to him. Peter who denied Jesus three times, who was questioned by Jesus three times as to his love for Jesus, needed three times to have his vision and hear the voice speak.
In the second reading from 1 John we heard, “Love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God.” The operative word here is EVERYONE. So many Christians do not have the joy of Jesus in them let alone complete joy. How many preachers seem up tight and haranguing their congregations. We must learn from other seekers such as the Dalai Lama and Mohandas Gandhi. The list could be multiplied.
Hopefully we won’t be among those who get to heaven and are startled to find out that there are so many people there who never even heard of Jesus.
Clearly this Sunday is a call to rejoice in the promises but to let ourselves and our attitudes be challenged by the experience of Peter and Cornelius.