Continuing with the series of catecheses on the Acts of the Apostles, in his address in Italian, the Pope focused his meditation on the theme: “God shows no partiality” (Acts 10:34): Peter and the effusion of the Spirit on the pagans. (Biblical passage: from the Acts of the Apostles 10:34-36).
After summarizing his catechesis in several languages, the Holy Father expressed special greetings to groups of faithful present.
The General Audience ended with the singing of the Pater Noster and the Apostolic Blessing.
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The Holy Father’s Catechesis
Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!
The Gospel’s journey in the world, which Saint Luke recounts in the Acts of the Apostles, is accompanied by God’s great creativity, which is manifested in an amazing way. He wants His children to overcome every particularism to open themselves to the universality of salvation. This is the purpose: to overcome particularism and to open oneself to the universality of salvation because God wants to save all. Those that are reborn from water and from the Spirit — the baptized — are called to come out of themselves and to open themselves to others, to live proximity, the style of living together, which transforms every interpersonal relationship into an experience of fraternity (Cf. Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, 87).
A witness of this process of “fraternization,” which the Spirit wants to ”trigger” in history, is Peter, the protagonist in the Acts of the Apostles together with Paul. Peter lived an event that marked a decisive turn in his existence. While he was praying, he received a vision that acted as a divine “provocation,” to arouse in him a change of mentality. He sees a great sheet descending from on High, containing various animals: quadrupeds, reptiles and birds, and he hears a voice that invites him to eat that flesh. He, as a good Jew, reacts saying that he has never eaten anything unclean, as required by the Law of the Lord (Cf. Leviticus 11). Then the voice replied forcefully: “What God has cleansed you must not call common” (Acts 10:15). With this event, the Lord wants Peter to no longer evaluate events and persons according to the categories of pure and impure, but that he learn to go beyond, to look at the person and the intentions of his heart. What makes man impure, in fact, does not come from outside but only from inside, from the heart (Cf. Mark 7:21). Jesus said it clearly.
After that vision, God invited Peter to the home of Cornelius, an uncircumcised stranger, “centurion of the so-called Italian Cohort, religious and God-fearing” man, who gave alms liberally to the people and prayed constantly to God (Cf. Acts 10:1-2), but he wasn’t Jewish. In that house of pagans, Peter preached Christ crucified and risen and the forgiveness of sin to anyone who believes in Him. And while Peter was speaking, the Holy Spirit fell on Cornelius and his relatives. And Peter baptized him in the name of Jesus Christ (Cf. Acts 10:48). This extraordinary event — it was the first time that something of this kind happened — was made known in Jerusalem, where the brethren, scandalized by Peter’s behavior, reproved him harshly (Cf. Acts 11:1-3). Peter had done something that went beyond the usual, beyond the Law, and they reproved him for this. However, after the encounter with Cornelius, Peter is freer of himself and more in communion with God and with others, because he saw God’s will in the action of the Holy Spirit. So he could understand, therefore, that Israel’s election is not a recompense for merits, but the sign of the free call to be the mediation of the divine blessing among the pagan peoples.
Dear brothers, from the Prince of the Apostles we learn that an evangelizer cannot be an impediment to God’s creative work, who wants “all men to be saved” (1 Timothy 2:4), but one who fosters the encounter of hearts with the Lord. And how do we behave with our brothers, especially with those that aren’t Christians? Are we an impediment for the encounter with God? Do we hamper in them the encounter with the Father or do we facilitate it?
Let us ask today for the grace to let ourselves be astounded by God’s surprises, to not hamper His creativity, but to recognize and favor the ever new ways through which the Risen One effuses His Spirit in the world and attracts hearts, making Himself known as “Lord of all” (Acts 10:36). Thank you
[Original text: Italian] [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]