Sunday, May 7, 2017

VISIONS CHANGE PEOPLE


Homily for May 8th, 2017: Acts 11:1-8; John 10:11-18.

          “I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold,” Jesus says in today’s gospel. “These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock, one shepherd.”

Today’s first reading is about some of those “other sheep.” It tells about a confrontation between Jewish Christians in Jerusalem and Peter over his visit to a Gentile house, and his eating with the people who lived there. It is difficult for us to understand just how shocked the Jerusalem Christians were when they heard about this. Read the Old Testament and you will find God’s people, the Jews, being told over and over again that the must be different from all other people. Since Gentiles did not observe the Jewish dietary laws, Jews could not share a meal with such people.

To defend what he has done, Peter tells about a vision he had, while he was praying in Joppa, in which God told him to eat food forbidden to him as an observant Jew. No sooner had Peter awakened from this vision than three men appeared asking him to come with them to a Gentile house in Caesarea. The owner of the house had been told by the Holy Spirit to summon Peter, who would “speak words to you by which you and all your household will be saved.”

As soon as Peter entered the Gentile house and began to speak about Jesus, “the Holy Spirit fell upon them as it had upon us at the beginning” (at Pentecost) Peter says. His conclusion: if God gave those Gentiles “the same gift he gave us when we came to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to interfere with him?”  

Do visions and visitations of the Holy Spirit belong only to Bible times? Don’t you believe it! Pope Francis appears to have had such a visitation. A cardinal who has known him for years visited Francis within weeks of his election. The two of them had an together. In the course of the conversation, the cardinal said to the Pope: “You are not the same man that I knew in Buenos Aires. What’s happened?” Francis answered: “The night that I was elected, I had an experience of the nearness of God that left me with an interior freedom and peace that has never left me.” We pray in this Mass that this freedom and peace will never leave him; and that we may have a share in the same freedom and peace.