First Reading:  Acts 10:34a, 37-43


The Conversion of Cornelius


Literal Translation

34a Having opened his mouth, Peter said,


36 The word which (God) sent to the sons of Israel, proclaiming the Good News of peace though CHRIST JESUS, this (ONE) is LORD of all, 37 you know the word having come about throughout all Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John announced, 38 JESUS, the (ONE) from Nazareth, as God anointed HIM with the Holy Spirit and power, WHO came throughout (the people), doing good works and curing all those having fallen under the power of the devil. 39 We are all witnesses of what HE did in both the countryside of the Jews and [in] Jerusalem. Whom they killed, having hanged on wood, 40 this (ONE) God raised [on] the third day and made him to become manifest, 41 not to all the people, but to the witnesses, those having been appointed by God, to us, who ate and drank together with him after his rising from the dead. 42 HE commanded us to announce and to (throughly) witness that this is the (ONE) assigned by God as judge of the living and the dead. 43 To this (event), the prophets witness: to receive the sending away of sins through HIS name for all trusting HIM.


10:34 "Having opened his mouth" is a Semitic expression meaning "he began to speak."


10:41 "having been appointed by God" is literally "having God spread his hand over." This was a sign of mission.


In this passage from Acts, Peter proclaimed the Good News to the household of Cornelius, a Roman centurion (leader of a cohort). Cornelius was "righteous Gentile," someone who worshiped the Jewish God and showed partiality to the Jews. According to Acts, Cornelius' worship and almsgiving to God's chosen were impeccable. However, Cornelius did not convert; conversion to Judaism meant resigning his commission in the Army, since military service required offering incense to an image of the Emperor as a sign of allegiance. Offering incense to the Emperor's image was considered to be idolatry to Jews.


Peter came to the house (i.e., family) of Cornelius to preach the Good News. By entering the house of a Gentile, no matter how righteous, Peter made himself ritually impure. But this was little concern to Peter; he was there to proclaim the Good News. This passage is an early summation of the Gospel.


Notice was is included and what is missing. Peter began with the reputation of Jesus after John's ministry [37]; the author of Acts assumes John's life was common knowledge. (Nothing was mentioned about Jesus' birth or baptism.) Peter summarized the Jesus' public life as God initiative (anointing of the Holy Spirit and power); Jesus exorcized, healed, and did good works [38]. (His teachings were not mentioned, although they did exist in the community in oral form). Finally, Peter related Jesus' death (as a human act) and resurrection (as God's action) [39-40].


Peter used the personal witness as a bridge between the events of Galilee and Jerusalem [39] and again to stress the reality of the resurrection [41]. Personal witness became God's commission to preach Jesus as Lord (judge of living and dead) [42]; what they saw was a command to tell others. Along with personal testimony, the apostles had Scriptural and traditional standing; the "prophets" represented the Bible [43]. And the message from the apostles and the prophets was clear; those who believed (regardless of nation, class, color or culture) in Christ (i.e., his "name") would receive the forgiveness that God offered to all.


Does our faith in Christ' name help us to see everyone as God's child? Do we accept others, even the "lily and poinsettia" Catholics, as God accepts us?