This past Sunday the Church spoke to us about healing, in ourselves and in others. We were asked, if we were paying attention, to open our hearts to the needs of others. How can we hear about a man lying paralyzed for thirty-eight years, and not be moved to compassion? How can we hear about a crowd that walked by him every day, and not feel convicted of the memory of the time (or times) we walked by someone in need? I believe I know the answer.
In today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles (you can read the passage below) we find an example of the faith being prepared to take root in a new community. God had prepared His people, through the respected Cornelius, to hear the Gospel from Saint Peter. God did not send Peter blindly into a crowd to preach and heal the people of their sins. Rather, He sent an angel to Cornelius so that when Cornelius met Peter, he would be prepared to hear what he had to say. God prepared the community for a relationship with Peter and the Church. Without this relationship, Peter would have just been another voice among many in the crowd, and they may never have heard the Gospel.
In the encounter between Peter and Cornelius, it wasn’t physical healing that took place, but social healing. Peter said, “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit anyone of another nation; but God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean.” In that moment, God healed the social illness of racism between Peter and Cornelius. Without this first step of racial healing, Peter would never have been welcomed to speak to the crowd. We will hear the rest of this story on Thursday, but we already know how it ends.
Now is our opportunity to end the racial illness that plagues our society, but it won’t happen in crowds or riots. It will happen one relationship at a time, with God’s grace and love. The Gospel of love and hope is for all people, but until we can stand to spend time together in fellowship, the Gospel will remain silent and unknown to many.
In those days, Peter went down to the men sent by Cornelius to him and said, "I am the one you are looking for; what is the reason for your coming?" And they said, "Cornelius, a centurion, an upright and God-fearing man, who is well-spoken of by the whole Jewish nation, was directed by a holy angel to send for you to come to his house, and to hear what you have to say." So he called them in to be his guests. The next day he rose and went off with them, and some of the brethren from Joppa accompanied him. And on the following day they entered Caesarea. Cornelius was expecting them and had called together his kinsmen and close friends. When Peter entered, Cornelius met him and fell down at his feet and worshiped him. But Peter lifted him up, saying, "Stand up; I too am a man." And as he talked with him, he went in and found many persons gathered; and he said to them, "You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit any one of another nation; but God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean. So when I was sent for, I came without objection. I ask then why you sent for me." And Cornelius said, "Four days ago, about this hour, I was keeping the ninth hour of prayer in my house; and behold, a man stood before me in bright apparel, saying, 'Cornelius, your prayer has been heard and your alms have been remembered before God. Send therefore to Joppa and ask for Simon who is called Peter; he is lodging in the house of Simon, a tanner, by the seaside.' So I sent to you at once, and you have been kind enough to come. Now therefore we are all here present in the sight of God, to hear all that you have been commanded by the Lord." – Acts 10.21-33