From Sabine Schwartz, Catholic Chaplain:
Sunday’s first reading from the Acts of the Apostles gives a very condensed account of a pivotal moment in the development of the young Church: Peter, like the other apostles, had been a faithful Jew all his life, and as such had never entered the house of a pagan, as this was forbidden by the Law. Along with the rest of the community he would have seen the way of Jesus very much as a new way of being Jewish and hence, just for those who belonged to the Jewish people. Then he is called to Caesarea, the main stronghold of the occupying Roman power, to the house of a Roman centurion called Cornelius. This pagan officer had received a vision telling him to send for Peter and hear what he had to say. At the same time, Peter himself had seen a vision: Being hungry, he fell into a trance and saw all kinds of animals that considered ‘unclean’ coming from heaven and a voice told him to ‘kill and eat’. Good Jew that he was, Peter refused, and the voice replied, ‘What God has made clean, you have no right to call profane.’
Thus, he understands that it is indeed God’s will that he should ‘break the law’, and visit the Cornelius’ house, and when he does so and preaches the Good News, he witnesses the Spirit of God coming down on the whole household, and discovers that these pagans, too, are called and chosen by Christ. In his own words: ‘I came to realise … that God has no favourites.’
Had Peter insisted that ‘the rules are the rules’, had he not been willing to let himself be called out of his comfort zone and his preconceived ideas about what God’s will was, and prepared to incur fierce criticism from his own community – I guess that none of us would ever have come to know Christ (unless you’re of Jewish ancestry, of course). I wonder where God might be calling us today to leave our comfort zone and our certainties, what are the unexpected places where he invites us to see his Spirit at work?