Continued commentary from Father Clive for those reading the book of Acts at this time.
How are you getting on? Have you managed to stick at it? Let me know what you think you might have gained from it that you did not understand or realise before? We all learn from each other’s faith and understanding.
Peter’s travels and encounters are fascinating stories and chapters 10 and 11 move us on to completely new ground for this one story shows us how the Gospel is to proceed. As we read Peter’s encounter with Cornelius receives considerable criticism from the other disciples….he had dared to share a meal with some gentiles and even more so that God has ‘poured out His gift of the Holy Spirit on the gentiles also’. It is a really compelling story and it reminds us of our Lord’s encounter with the Roman Officer and his healing in the Gospel of Luke.
It is difficult for us today to quite understand the questioning and yes even hostility to Peter by other disciples but we have to remember that Jesus was a Jew and they all believed that his teachings were only for the Jews…. He was simply there to bring the true faith to the Jews only. In our multi ethnic and multi faith society we take for granted that we can share with others of a different faith trying to understand them more….we have friends of all faiths and none, we share meals with all and enjoy the rainbow of our society even though to us our faith is what we want. A growing number of people start telling us that possibly all paths lead to God……. But beware because there are groups, many violent in today’s world who still have similar opinions about others as the disciples did about the gentiles and remember that Saul was instrumental at persecuting the early followers of Jesus. So perhaps things in some ways have not changed much. Interfaith killing and terrorism are not just a thing of the past as world news informs us almost daily. But the story of Cornelius and Peter is a real turning point in the story of our own faith as the ‘Church’ starts to grow.
Then comes the story of Peter’s imprisonment and release. Many people have given alternative thoughts about these events and it is always the case when miracles take place throughout the Bible. Doubt is an easy thing for us all because we always need to rationalise everything…. and yet so much in life is not rational so why do we always have doubts about miracles? Perhaps the story shows us that whatever happened Peter did ‘escape’ from the prison and his explanation is how he saw it because like his vision with Cornelius the point is that the events point to God’s intervention in human understanding.
If we start to examine every detail of a vision or miracle we really start to misunderstand the whole relationship between God and humans. The whole purpose is that God is beyond human imagination as the whole history of our faith shows. Over the years I have come to have no hesitation in my belief in miracles because of what I have witnessed myself through events, study,
prayer and growth within my own faith. We do not need to always try to look for a ‘human’ answer but for a ‘God’ answer. That answer may not always be what we want but it does not negate the answer. As we see as the story of Acts continues it is through faith that we have our being and through the Spirit that we live our lives. Like the followers of Christ through ages we must not expect to always have everything our own way but to live in the image of Christ through the Power of His resurrection.
And so as we read chapter 13 the beginning of the Missionary Journeys we start to see the movement outwards and beyond Palestine and these stories are not only an incentive for us but a tale of true discipleship through all the joys and hardships of living and preaching the Gospel of our Risen Saviour.
The stories to come in these chapters can do nothing less that encourage us in our own evangelism within the community hence I will leave them to the next interlude piece. Just like crossing the road – if we follow the ‘rules’ we will get there…and those rules are in the teaching of Christ.
Under the leadership of Mother Katie St. James has a bright future and we all have a part to play in that.
‘We’ll meet again’
God Bless you all. Stay Safe in these difficult times
Love Father Clive
PS: I know some of you have gone past chapter 13 but the start of the Missionary Journeys is a good place to rest before the next ‘catch-up’.