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Peter and the Gentile Converts

Submitted by on Monday, 4 May 2009No Comment


If Paul would later become the Apostle to the Gentiles, it was Peter who initiated the acceptance of Gentiles into the Church.  In the Acts of the Apostles, Luke shows us Peter’s role in the spread of the Church outside Judea and into the Hellenic world.  The baptism of the Roman centurion Cornelius started it all.  But it was not wholly due to the work of Peter.  Luke makes it clear that the admission of Gentiles was due to a vision granted to Peter.  It was the vision of animals offered to Peter from heaven and a voice saying:  “What God has pronounced clean you should not pronounce profane.”

“The Spirit told me…”  Peter tells the community that it was through the direction of the Holy Spirit that he went with the men from Joppa into Cornelius’ presence.  In the Acts of the Apostles, the main force that moves history is the Spirit.  Jesus called it the “force from heaven” that will empower the disciples in their mission of evangelization.  “The Lord is Spirit”  St. Paul will write later on (2 Corinthians 3:17.18).  Mark would even describe the work of the disciples as being undertaken “with the Lord working with them” (Mark 16:20).  Thus, it is not through human machinations that the Church spread out to accomodate even Gentile converts; it was already and integral element in the plan of God as Paul would tirelessly repeat in his reference to the secret hidden but now revealed in Christ.

The responsorial psalm is about the thirst for God.  The psalm, of course, speaks of the “thirst” that an Israelite exile (perhaps a priest?) feels for God who is like living waters.  But the thirst for God is also found in non-Jews.  This is what we call “religion” understood as man’s longing for God.  What Peter knew and experienced as the Lord’s call to take in the Gentiles, is something that finds its basis in the human heart.  All — regardless of their religious affiliation — longs for God; but it is the Son who has made this otherwise unknowable God, knowable and approachable.  Peter admitted the Gentiles into the household of God because it was the Lord who wanted it.  After all, it is the Lord who gives the waters that gurgle up into eternal life.  Everyone who drinks from His cup, will never thirst again (John 4.)

2 Corinthians 3:17
View in: NAB NIV KJV NJB Vulg Greek
17Now the Lord is a Spirit. And where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.
Mark 16:20
View in: NAB NIV KJV NJB Vulg Greek
20But they going forth preached every where: the Lord working withal, and confirming the word with signs that followed.

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