“‘Peter began to speak, saying, ‘In truth, I see that God shows no partiality; rather, in every nation, whoever fears Him and acts uprightly is acceptable to Him.”’ (Acts 10:34-35).
A practicing Catholic is different from a cultural Catholic. A cultural Catholic was brought up in the Church and remembers certain outward forms of experience in the Church’s life, but is no longer receiving the sacraments, and may go to Mass at Christmas or Easter.
To be a real practicing Catholic, our Gospel today suggests that we need to cultivate a real, personal, consistent, and growing relationship with Jesus who is risen from the dead.
Jesus says: “As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love.” It is that simple! The practicing Catholic has an ongoing friendship with Jesus, wishes to spend time with Jesus, wishes to learn how to be the best person possible, which is more than a formal prayer or two. It’s like I could not imagine my life without him.
“What do people do, who have no faith,” I am often asked.
Today’s gospel reminds us, simply and clearly, that our friendship or relationship with Jesus depends on Jesus’ one request: “Love one another as I love you.” Jesus does not insist that we love or not as we wish. And Jesus always reminds us that he chose us to be his friend. In fact, he tells us that we did not choose him. In fact, there are many people who claim to be Catholics who have not yet chosen him.
Being a friend of Jesus is more than being a member of an organization. My father and mother were members of all kinds of lodges and social groups over their lifetime, were friends with others from those groups, and often went to their meetings which all began with secret words of entry and ritual beginnings.
The Catholic Church without the friendship and spirit of Jesus, is not a Church, is hollow and without a life-giving Spirit. From the first days of Jesus Risen, Jesus has insisted that we understand that all he wants us to be and to do is “love one another.”
Such respect and openness, such welcome and acceptance, such a spirit of fraternity and universal love is on the wane today. In fact, there are groups and individuals who are actively trying to destroy or to twist the message and spirit of Jesus, to deform it, preferring lies and alternative realities, made-up alternatives. There is no alternative to lies. Lies and having no interest in what is truth will not make America great. There is no such thing as “races.”
There is only one human race. There is only one God and Father of all. There are many who want to leave God out of politics. When we do, we see the void and absence of truth as we do today. “The lie” wishes to divide us further in an effort to reserve America for a few.
What is happening in our country today and which we will see in the coming days is not the kind of bearing fruit that Jesus wants to see in a follower of his.
Maybe it is time for cleaning out the house. Are you a follower of Jesus or not? The gospel. While we may not reach the spiritual maturity of Jesus, we have the invitation, written many times in the gospel: “to repent and believe the good news.” We do not have to remain in a world of discrimination and supremacy. Jesus can soften our hearts if we have a relationship with him as a real person.
The author of our second reading today reminds us that the way “God was revealed to us was through Jesus so that we might have life through him. God has come to love and inspire us. To be more than our prejudices, our self-interests, and our just plain selfishness.
The provoking of negative attitudes, and of the desires to control our world as we may believe it should be controlled does not shape Jesus or his gospels. Who are we letting shape us?
Today, we remember St. Peter who pronounces the first principles of a follower of Jesus who is risen from the dead: “To Cornelius who got on his knees and bowed to Peter for coming to see him, Peter said: “Get up, I myself am also a human being.”” (We are all human beings.) And the next revelation came to Peter: “I see that God shows no partiality. Rather, in every nation, whoever respects God and acts uprightly is acceptable to him.” How can a person claim to be a follower of Jesus and act as a racist, as if everyone who is white has a first claim of citizenship or educational and financial resources?
“God shows no partiality.” Have we thought of our partialities, our biases and where they come from or what they protect? Our partialities do not shape Jesus or his gospel, and we should be asking Jesus to help rid our lives of them.
St. Peter was astounded when the Holy Spirit fell upon the Roman gentile Cornelius and his household. The Jewish people were very discriminating about whom God loved, would not even enter the house of a non-Jewish person. God had to send Peter a vision about “eating all foods” and “welcoming even a Cornelius.”
So, what is Jesus asking of us today? I think that Jesus is encouraging us to be open, to change our mind and hearts as Peter did, to see that everyone is made in the image and likeness of God. Do we not all want to be respected as a person?
Why do so many people who profess to be Christian want to follow a demagogue rather than the Son of God? A person cannot live in two worlds — a political world and a spiritual world with conflicting and opposing ideals. If we try to do so, we become a kind of religious hybrid, but not a true follower of Jesus.
My dear brothers and sisters. We need to be very clear that Jesus wants our lives to bear a very special kind of fruit and that we need to ask God the Father for the help to do so.
It is clear that we cannot take Jesus’ greatest desire: “I command you: Love one another,” and twist it or deform it. We humbly pray to God to change our hearts and minds. Living lies will degenerate us and turn what was God’s hope for us into illusions and destroy our souls.
Jesus said: I call you friends because I have told you everything that I heard from my Father.” Let us not turn a deaf ear to the Risen Jesus and pretend not to hear. We follow the Risen Jesus who says: “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”