First Reading Commentary
Looking over this Reading, one might immediately be drawn to the first two sentences describing Cornelius falling at the feet of Peter, the Church’s first pope. If you have a good memory you might recall something very similar happening to Saint John Paul II and he, like Peter, picked up the man. History does tend to repeat itself.
It’s possible that Cornelius was looking at Peter as someone who was more than an ordinary human being; but more than likely he was giving respect to someone who held a high office. This kind of respect was customary among the ancient eastern people. Peter, however, raised him up because as head of the Church, he was a servant and not someone to be served.
“Then Peter proceeded to speak and said, ‘In truth, I see that God shows no partiality. Rather, in every nation whoever fears Him and acts uprightly is acceptable to Him.’” God does not portion out His love giving each of us a different measure; no, He loves us all equally and beyond human understanding.
At the time of this Reading many were astounded to hear that God loved Jews and Gentiles equally. The Gentiles received the gift of the Holy Spirit and were speaking in tongues which is very rare for those who have not been baptized. Nevertheless, Peter ordered them to be baptized which shows the priority that the Church gives to the sacraments. It was important to the Church then that all her members receive the sacraments. It was important to the Church then and the Church now because the sacraments are ordained by Christ and He is present in them.
Second Reading Commentary
“Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God.” Love is the source of all kindness and mercy; and the source of love is God, for God is love. God sent His only Son into the world because of His love for us. It is beyond the understanding of any human being the kind of love that could sacrifice an only Son for the entire human race. It is equally beyond understanding the kind of love in which the Son would willingly lay down His life for the entire human race. How much more mind boggling is it to suggest that this Sacrifice would have taken place even if only one of us were in need of salvation, as the rest of the human race was innocent? Finally, the end result of this kind of love really has no end. Our lives will no longer end in death but will step into eternal life to experience this love in its marvelous splendor forever.
“A wonderful condescension,” says Saint Augustine, “in our blessed Redeemer, Who was God as well as Man, to call such poor and sinful creatures, His friends; who, when we have done all we can, and ought, we are still but unprofitable servants.”
“I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from My Father.” Saint John Chrysostom explains that we have to interpret this verse to mean that Jesus has told them everything that they were capable of understanding because in the next chapter of this Gospel Jesus says: “I have yet many things to say to you but you cannot bear them now.” Most interesting, though, are the words “everything I have heard from My Father” as they suggest that Jesus has a very mysterious interior life, one that intimates an inseparable communion of the Holy Trinity. The Son receives from the Spirit the words of the Father. Who could possibly grasp this? Nevertheless it teaches us of our Lord’s desire for us to have that elevated, mystical interior life. Our gift of free will, however, means that it begins with us, our desire for such a union.
“It was not you who chose Me, but I Who chose you.” Saint Augustine reflects on this verse and writes: “O ineffable grace! For what were we, before Christ chose us, but wretched and abandoned creatures. Such we were; but now we are chosen, in order that we may become good by the grace of Him that has chosen us.”
If we are to be disciples of Jesus, then we must do what He says and follow His example. Perhaps there are some questions to ask ourselves, answer them honestly, and then reflect on how this fits into our calling as disciples of Jesus: Are there any persons in my life that I avoid or am not particularly fond of? If they have wronged me, can I forgive them and reach out to them? If I have wronged them, can I ask for forgiveness or because of my shame do I avoid them at all costs?
Doing the right thing is not always easy. Sometimes we are afraid because doing what is right might require courage and boldness. Sometimes we are tempted to let things go by because doing the right thing might require a little more time out of our busy day. There are many temptations and fears that could stop us from doing what is right but where would we be if Jesus had surrendered to those temptations and fears?