8 April 2007, Rosary Monastery
St. Ann’s, Port of Spain
“Till this moment they had failed to understand the teaching of scripture, that he must rise from the dead.”
If only there were more people in the world like Cornelius! Here’s a Roman citizen, a pagan, who with his family becomes convinced of the God of Israel, starts praying faithfully, opens his heart and life to the promptings of the Holy Spirit and is rewarded by our loving God, who let him become the first Gentile to hear the good news of the Resurrection and receive baptism from Peter himself.
As I say, if only more people, baptized or not, were like Cornelius! He put his life and the life of his whole household in God’s hands and was richly rewarded in hearing about and receiving God Himself in His Fullness, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, as Gift into his life and the lives of his loved ones.
The women came running frantically this Sunday morning to tell Peter that they had found the stone rolled back and the tomb empty. Peter and John set off at a dead run to see for themselves. The Gospel of John says that the disciple Jesus loved went into the tomb, he saw and he believed. Peter tells Cornelius’ household:
“…three days afterwards God raised him to life and allowed him to be seen, not by the whole people but only by certain witnesses God had chosen beforehand. Now we are those witnesses – we have eaten and drunk with him after his resurrection from the dead – and he has ordered us to proclaim this to his people and to tell them that God has appointed him to judge everyone, alive or dead. It is to him that all the prophets bear this witness: that all who believe in Jesus will have their sins forgiven through his name.”
All of us here present this morning really have a double calling, or should I say, we can find ourselves both in Peter and in Cornelius. The angel who appeared to Cornelius told him to send for Peter in Jaffa. The angel did not announce the Resurrection; Peter, the witness, did. Ours is not a mystic, crystal revelation from the Age of Aquarius or from any other new age’s crystal ball, but the gift of another person to us. Mommies and Daddies bring their little Cornelius’ and Cornelias to baptism and share their prayer life and faith with them. What happened in Caesarea to the household of Cornelius happens in every Christian home.
Now that’s the way it should be, but it could be that we didn’t grow up in a Christian home or we didn’t appreciate what we had at home or maybe didn’t have the kind of a witness we needed at home. Maybe Mommy and Daddy weren’t Sunday church people, who ate and drank, so to speak, with the Risen Lord. As we know, it’s never too late and many a Cornelius or Cornelia finds his or her way to the Risen Christ as an older child, as an adolescent or even as an adult. The key is a hunger and thirst for truth, light and life, along with a readiness to be taught by God in the person of the witness He sends to us. That witness may be a grandparent, may be a teacher at school, may be a relative our own age, may be a schoolmate, may be someone at work or even someone we meet by chance.
For all of us here the Cornelius side of our calling may already be history and the actuality would be our other vocation to be witnesses, to be people who hear the prompting of the angel’s voice like Peter on the rooftop in Jaffa at prayer and go looking for that Cornelius or Cornelia who is seeking God in truth. For most of us, that is something we’ll do not on the road but right at home, right at the office, in school or at play. We’ll do it by being people who have kept the flame of faith from Baptism alive in our hearts, people who if we have sinned or fallen from grace have come back to oneness with the Lord through the sacrament of penance and a true spirit of repentance. We’ll do our witnessing just as St. Paul urges us, that is simply, by never hesitating to answer should someone ask us the reason for our hope.
Our faith is neither esoteric nor does it require of us getting up on a soap box or shouting about on street corners. Our faith is living with God at home, giving Him that hour plus on Sunday, the first day of the week, never denying Him by the way we speak, act or dress. Marriages that are founded on love, grow in love and despite differences and misunderstandings endure and win in love are evident both to the rest of the family and to friends. Faith is the same: it’s not preachy it’s lived and loved.
Rejoice with me this Easter, all you Corneliuses and Cornelias out there! You are hearing the best of all good news: Resurrexit sicut dixit, Alleluia! He is risen as He said, Alleluia! Rejoice with me this Easter, all you Peters and Johns and Mary Magdalens and other Marys who were at the Tomb early this morning and found it empty! Rejoice in the Risen One! Alleluia!
Try, just try and find something to compare with this! Alleluia!