Daily Reflection May 14th, 2020

Daily Reflection May 14th, 2020

MAY 14 Martyr Isidore of Chios


A sin that serves as a scandal to others is a twofold sin. A wise man strives neither to scandalize anyone nor to lead anyone into sin by his sinful example. St. Ambrose praised such sagacity in the Emperor Valentian, who died at an early age, citing these examples from his life: “Hearing that he was spoken of throughout Rome as a passionate hunter and a lover of wild beasts–which in reality he was not–and how this passion was distracting him from his duties of state, the emperor immediately ordered that all the wild beasts in his preserve be slain. Again, upon hearing how certain malicious people spread the rumor that he ate lunch early (wanting by this to make him out to be a glutton), the emperor imposed a strict fast on himself both privately and publicly. At public meals, he was rarely seen to place a morsel of food in his mouth. And again, when his sisters disputed with a certain man over some property, the emperor, even though he had the right to judge the dispute, directed the case to the open court so that he would not be accused of partiality.” Indeed, with great fear, this pious emperor upheld the words of the Lord: Woe to him who shall offend one of these little ones (Matthew 18:6). (St. Nikolai Velimirovich, Prologue from Ochrid)

Fr John’s Reflection

Then Peter opened his mouth and said: “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him. The word which God sent to the children of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ – He is Lord of all – that word you know, which was proclaimed throughout all Judea, and began from Galilee after the baptism which John preached: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.”And we are witnesses of all things which He did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem, whom they killed by hanging on a tree. Him God raised up on the third day, and showed Him openly, not to all the people, but to witnesses chosen before by God, even to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead. And He commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that it is He who was ordained by God to be Judge of the living and the dead. To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins.” While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word. (Acts 10:34-44)

Last evening, in our “town hall” discussion, we spoke about Cornelius and the vision of St. Peter about the great sheet with animals (Acts 10). Today’s assigned reading from Acts completes the story. Cornelius had a vision in which he was told to send for Peter. Peter had the vision of a great sheet and being told to “kill and eat,” although the animals were all “unclean.” Not trying to rehash the whole story (read chapter 10), the narrative in the Book of Acts was a very important moment in the history of the Church. It was the revelation from God that the Christian Church did not belong only to the “clean” Jews — the chosen people of God. It was the revelation that “unclean” Gentiles (pagans and all other peoples) who chose to believe in and follow the risen Christ were not only allowed in, but welcomed and, most importantly, sought. It was the beginning of the great missionary outreach of the first century, when the Church exploded and began to be planted in the whole world.

Today’s lectionary reading (extended at my choice by one verse – 44) begins with the logical conclusion of Peter’s visit to Cornelius and the mission of the Church to anyone: God shows no partiality and accepts anyone who fears Him and works righteousness. It also ends with a similar conclusion: whoever believes in Him shall receive remission of sins. Those are wrapped around a mini-Creed, if you will. It was a statement by Peter of who Jesus Christ is: the Word sent to the children of Israel. And Peter makes a statement of faith about His ministry, His crucifixion, His resurrection from the dead, and His commandment to evangelize the world. That preaching was heard by everyone around Cornelius, and through Luke’s chronicling in Acts, the whole world. And the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard those words. We today are members of those who heard those words. We are the ones like Cornelius, oftentimes pagan in our inclination, behavior, and beliefs, but hopefully open to the vision and presence of God. Filled with the Holy Spirit, living the life of the Church — the New Israel — we receive remission of sins and the charge by the Lord Himself to evangelize the world. Few of us are called to do it as literal missionaries. All of us are called to missionize by simply living Christian lives, preaching in deeds and not just words. Much harder than it sounds. May we all be a Cornelius. Christ is Risen!