Grace to you and Happy Easter
Do you want to know how the early Church handled the issue of discrimination? Read Acts of the Apostles chapters 10 to 15. There you will find how the Christian mission is one that knocks down the walls of hostility among people, providing opportunities for true reconciliation with God.
As St. Paul said, “Christ has broken down the walls of hostility” (Ephesians 2:14).
Let me share a portion of the story. It has to do with the bold action that Peter, the leader of the Church, the first Pope, took in response to God’s call for universal mission against those who thought Christianity was a tribal religion. We find the story in Acts 10 but Peter used it as a defense against discrimination in Acts 11:1-18.
It’s the famous story of the vision God showed Peter of unclean animals, asking him to kill and eat. Peter objected on religious grounds: “I have never eaten anything unclean.”
God replied, “You shall not call unclean what I have cleaned” (see Acts 11:9).
Peter understood the message when three men from Caesarea came, asking him to visit the family of Cornelius, a gentile’s household. (Jews then wanted nothing to do with the gentiles.) He didn’t hesitate and went with them. There, in Cornelius’s house, the Holy Spirit descended on the people, the gentiles, as he did the disciples on the day of Pentecost. Peter understood they were equally chosen as “we were” though they weren’t Jews.
This story sheds light on the universal mission of Christianity. It, equally, reveals how we should relate to each other as believers. Many times, we carry our tribal, ethnic or cultural sentiments into our worship of God. Many times we do not allow the Holy Spirit to break the walls of hostility between us. However, whenever we do, there is much healing and peace.
There is freedom in “Color blindness.” I do not mean the medical situation of vision problems, but being really blind to the color of people’s skin. It saves us from a lot of anxiety and stress. Relating with each other as God’s children is the way Jesus has called us to live.
Once I finished ministering to a group of people. A woman walked up to me and said, “God has used you to heal me of the wounds of hate which I have carried for years. A black man abused my daughter and I have since developed deep-seated hatred for people of color, and shudder wherever I see a black man. As I came in for this seminar and as the talks went on, it was like God was renewing my heart, bringing healing to the wounds. Thanks for being the agent of my healing.”
She hugged me, while still in tears.
I bet she had never shaken the hands of a black man after the terrible thing that happened to her daughter, let alone having a prolonged, sobbing hug. God bless her. I pray for healing for all in similar situations.
There is freedom in breaking the walls. This is not simply about racial discrimination. It’s also about all forms of discrimination, tribal, ethnic, cultural and political that cause hostility among us.
May this message bring us much peace and freedom, as we live the Christian message of freedom for all— repentance, reconciliation available for all in Christ, the Good Shepherd, who laid down his life for many.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Monday, Easter Week 4: Acts 11”1-18; John 10:1-10]
Father Maurice provides a daily blog of reflections based on the bible readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration and developing your own thoughts. It may also be helpful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.