There is no Greater Love Than Laying Down One’s Life for One’s Friend
The first Reading, (Acts 10:25-26.34-35.44-48), narrated the conversion of Cornelius and his household to Christianity. Cornelius was a Roman soldier stationed in Caesarea and a non-Jew. He was a partial convert to the Jewish religion. He prayed to God, and contributed generously to Jewish causes, but was not circumcised. Circumcision was a prerequisite for a male to become a full convert to Judaism. Cornelius had a vision in which he was asked to send some men to Joppa to fetch Peter who was visiting.
While the men Cornelius had sent to Peter were on their way to Joppa, Peter went into a trance. In his vision he saw a basket full of different kinds of four-footed animals, reptiles and birds being lowered from the sky, and a voice said to him, kill and eat, and he replied that he has never eaten anything unclean. The voice told him that what God has made clean, he had no right to call profane. This scene was repeated three times to Peter. The book of Leviticus chapter 11: 1-47 listed the clean and unclean animals. The clean animals were edible, whereas the unclean ones were not. It may surprise many that pigs were among the unclean animals because, though they have divided hoofs, they do not chew their cud. However, Jesus had declared every food clean when he stated that what we eat does not make us unclean before God, rather, it is the evil thoughts that come from our hearts which make us unclean, (Mk 7:14-23).
Peter’s responses to the vision he had reminds us of the various prejudices one may have about other cultures. Many Jews believed that they were the only chosen people of God and thus, espoused some superiority complex over other peoples and cultures. For the Jews, people from other nations were unclean like the unclean animals. Peter alluded to this intolerance when he addressed the people who had gathered at the house of Cornelius. He said, “you know it is unlawful for Jews to mix with or visit someone of another race; but God has made it clear to me that I must not call anyone profane or unclean.” Thus, Peter’s vision was a rebuke to such a superiority complex.
When Peter arrived at Cornelius’s house, he was welcomed by Cornelius, who then talked to him about the vision he had in which he was asked to send for him. Having listened to Cornelius’s speech, Peter then addressed the crowd who had gathered in his, (Cornelius), house. He said that he had come to the realisation that God has no favourites but that everyone from any nationality who kept God’s commandments was acceptable to him. As Peter was speaking a miracle occurred; his hearers suddenly received the gifts of the Holy Spirit though they were yet to be baptised. God wanted to confirm to Peter that Christianity was for everybody and for all nations. Christ has purchased our salvation through his death and resurrection, so no one should deny the gift of salvation to another. The members of Cornelius’s family were then baptised.
Jesus said in the Gospel, (Jn 15:9-17), that as the father has loved him so he has loved us. He then invited us to remain in his love. He gave us a new commandment to love one another as he, (Christ), had loved us. Hence, the golden rule of ‘do to no one what you will not like done to you’ has now been superseded. We are no longer the yard stick for measuring goodness; Christ is. Christ has shown ultimately that he loved us by laying down his life for our salvation. Everyone may not be called to martyrdom, but each person is invited in a little or big way to be the face of Christ in one’s community.
Like Christ, mothers sacrifice a lot for the good of their families. Today, as we celebrate Mother’s Day, we salute our mothers. We congratulate them for their unflinching love and care for their families. Scripture underscored the unconditional love mothers have for their children and families when it rhetorically asked, “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast, and have no compassion on the child she has borne?” (Is 49:15). We know that mothers willingly give the last drop of their blood for the good of their families. They are agents of unity and peace in their families; are the souls of their families.
As we celebrate Mother’s Day, we thank our mums, both living and dead, for their immense contributions to our society. We thank them for being there for us. We pray that the Good Lord will bless all mums and grant eternal rest to those of them that are resting in peace. Amen.
Happy Mother’s Day!
Fr Chinua Okeke CSSp