FIFTH SUNDAY OF EASTER
28 April 2013
The earliest Christians were Jerusalem Jews. The major theme of Acts is the story of how, under the urging of Peter and Paul, the church decided to convert gentiles. (May I remind you that the term “gentile” means anyone who is not Jewish?) In our reading, we hear how the Jerusalem church was shocked to hear that Peter had been converting gentiles. They called him to return, and today we hear his defense. He begins with the fascinating vision he had of being told by God to eat meat prohibited in Jewish law. Then he tells of how he was called to the house of Cornelius, a centurion (officer over a hundred Roman soldiers), who had had a vision of an angel who told him to fetch Peter. (The story had been told in the previous chapter.) As Peter preached to the family, something happened, perhaps a trance fell on them, or they began speaking in tongues; the text says only “the Holy Spirit fell upon them.” After such a sign that God was with this family, Peter was happy to baptize them.
We are close to the end of Revelation. John is allowed to see the renewal of life that initiates the new era. From heaven descends the new Jerusalem, like a bride, an image that always puzzles my imagination. Then God takes leave from the scene, announcing his new dwelling among men in the holy city, his care of them, his renewing the entire world. There yet remain brief dramas of measuring and illuminating the holy city and the revelation to John of the river of life and the tree of life. Our next two readings will be taken from the final verses of the prophecy.