Acts 10:1-48 This initiated one of the great controversies of the early Church: Must a Gentile first become a Jew before becoming a Christian? The question was wrapped up in the issue of circumcision, a practice required of all males under the Mosaic Law but not customary among the Gentiles. Peter’s vision and the heavenly message to the uncircumcised but God-fearing Cornelius brought about an understanding that the old disciplines dividing Jews and Gentiles no longer applied under the New Law of Christ. The Baptism of Cornelius and his household in Caesarea inaugurated the mission of the Church to welcome Gentiles into the community as Christ had directed. (CCC 781-782, 830-831, 1150)
Ch 10:2-8 Who feared God: Some Gentiles were attracted to Judaism. They would keep the Commandments, adopt most Jewish practices, and worship in the synagogues, but they would not actually become Jews because they would not seek circumcision. They were commonly described as “God-fearing.”
An angel of God: The faithful of Scripture as well as the entire Church benefit from the intervention of angels, created immortal spirits who serve as God’s messengers and advocates. (CCC 334)
Ch 10:9 Homes in that region featured a solid, flat roof accessible by a staircase. It was not uncommon for residents to spend time there in the sun.
Ch 10:14-16 For Peter, an observant Jew, to eat animals that the Old Law had declared “unclean” was an abomination. In Leviticus, God had set forth rules regarding which animals, birds, insects, and sea creatures might be eaten and which were forbidden. (cf. Acts 11:1-30). Even to touch the carcass of an unclean animal made a Jew ritually unclean. Gentiles, on the other hand, had no such restrictions. The strange vision of Peter served as a sign that the ban on consuming unclean animals had been lifted, thus removing a key obstacle to the entrance of Gentiles into the Church. (CCC 582)
Ch 10:26 Prostration and worship such as Cornelius offered Peter are reserved to God alone.
Ch 10:28 The Old Law allowed Jews to have Gentile acquaintances, but the Law had become so rigidly interpreted by the Pharisees that Jews became extremely scrupulous about avoiding Gentiles so as to limit the risk of becoming unclean. (CCC 579)
Ch 10:34-35 No partiality: We are endowed with equal dignity in the eyes of God; we are judged according to our works and remain in God’s graces as long as we seek his will.
In every nation...acceptable to him: God’s plan of salvation began with the very first sin, which caused the human race to be separated from communion with him and one another. God established the Chosen People as a means to gradually regather his people in unity, a unity now visible in the Church, which is a sacrament of unity. The missionary activity of the Church is an ongoing effort to bring about this unity. (CCC 761)
Ch 10:38-39 In examining his life, it is self-evident that Jesus is the anointed one, the Messiah, who is filled with the Holy Spirit and with power from God.
The Jews: As always in the New Testament, this term refers primarily, if not exclusively, to the Jewish leaders who were most responsible for the rejection and Crucifixion of Christ. (CCC 438, 453, 486, 743, 1289)
Ch 10:41-42 Us who were chosen...from the dead: In other words, those who have encountered the risen Christ, who appeared only to his disciples. Such witnesses have a sacred obligation to preach the message of conversion and salvation to all. (CCC 659, 679, 995)
Ch 10:42-48 The Holy Spirit descended upon the Gentiles in a remarkable way that paralleled the descent of the Spirit at Pentecost, with speaking in tongues and the Baptism of many converts. (CCC 679, 747, 12226)
(*The Didache Bible RSV-CE Ignatius Edition, 2006)
The First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians
St. Paul is the author of the two Epistles to the community at Corinth, a church he founded along with Sts. Silas and Timothy around AD 50 to 51, during his second missionary journey.
As with several of his Epistles, St. Paul probably dictated this one to a scribe and then added a postscript greeting in his own writing (cf. 16:21)
Corinth, the capital city of the Grecian province of Achaia, was a center of commerce and culture in St. Paul’s day.
As with many larger cities in Greece, Corinth had many shrines to pagan gods as well as a reputation for immoral entertainment and living.
The fledgling Christian church had both Gentile and Jewish members.
Since St. Paul had established the community five years earlier, many of the faithful had returned to their former, immoral ways.
This Epistle was meant to issue a firm but loving warning to the Corinthians; it encouraged them to remain steadfast in the Faith until he could return there himself to address some of the problems that prevailed.
In the First Epistle to the Corinthians, St. Paul addressed specific problems that existed within the community such as sexual immorality, liturgical abuses, lack of reverence for the Eucharist, divisions within the assembly, and disputes among church members who sought resolution in the civil legal system.
The root causes of these problems were common human experiences such as pride, envy, selfishness, cultural pressures, concupiscence, and lack of proper formation in faith; thus, the Epistle is highly instructive for Christians of every age in dealing with similar concerns.
St. Paul also advanced some of the key doctrines of the New Testament.
The Church is a transcendent institution founded by Christ, who governs her and gives her life through her members.
The faithful are united in Christ and ought not be split into factions: We are one body in Christ (cf. 10:17; 12:12) and must work together, each using his or her own gifts for the good of all.
The Eucharist is the great sign of unity-in which Christ himself is truly present-by which the faithful share his redemptive Sacrifice (cf. 11:27)
St. Paul also dispelled confusion about the resurrection of the dead, a concept that ran counter to the Greek notion of body-soul dualism in which the material body is a mortal hindrance to the spirit.
He taught that our bodies will be raised just as Christ himself was raised.
(*The Didache Bible RSV-CE Ignatius Edition, 2006)
1 Corinthians 1-6 The first six chapters of this Epistle are corrective in nature, reproving the Corinthian community for divisions that were rooted primarily in pride.
Ch 1:1-9 Apostle of Christ Jesus: The Greek apostolos means “one who is sent.” While not among the original Twelve selected by Christ, Paul was counted among the Apostles because of his personal call through a direct encounter with Jesus Christ, who made it abundantly clear that his mission was to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles (cf. Acts 9:1-18). There was a faction in Corinth who evidently doubted his apostolic authority (cf. 1 Cor 9:1-2). (CCC 96, 401, 1461, 1556)
Ch 1:2 To the Church of God: This was the local Christian community in Corinth, which was part of the universal Church. The word church designates a liturgical assembly, the local or particular Church, and the universal Church.
Called to be saints: All the baptized, regardless of their state of life, are called to holiness, i.e., to continually seek perfection according to the model of Christ. The word saint means “holy one.” Insofar as we are sanctified by grace and practice our faith in Christ, the term applies not only to the saints in Heaven but to the faithful living on earth as well as to the Holy Souls in Purgatory who await entrance into Heaven. Their communion in Christ is what unites the faithful on earth, in Purgatory, and in Heaven. This unity in Christ is called the Communion of Saints. This belief is expressed in the Apostles’ Creed. (CCC 199, 752, 823, 867, 1695)
Ch 1:5 Enriched in him with all speech and knowledge: The Corinthian community included gifted teachers and preachers who both understood the Gospel message and were able to express it to others. (CCC 427)
Ch 1:8 The day of our Lord Jesus Christ: This will be the end of the world, when Christ will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, rendering to each person according to his or her works. This tenet of the faith is expressed in the Nicene and the Apostles’ Creeds. (CCC 681-682, 1039-1040)
Ch 1:10-17 A problem in the Church at Corinth was that some Christians were creating factions, often centered around their favorite preacher, the disciple who converted them, or the Apostles who baptized them. Paul explained that there are no such distinctions among Christians; all who believe in Christ belong to Christ and not to any particular individual. The unity of the faithful is an expression of the catholicity of the Church (CCC 811-816, 856, 1398-1401)
Ch 1:11-12 Chloe...Apollos...Cephas: Apollos was for a time a traveling companion of Paul, and Cephas is the Aramaic name for Peter, the head of the Apostles and the Church. Nothing more is known of Chloe.
Ch 1:16 Baptize also the household: Often entire households were baptized together. These households would most likely have included children and servants. This is implicit evidence of the practice of infant Baptism. (CCC 1231, 1251-1252)
Ch 1:18-25 To those without faith, the Crucifixion signaled the dismal failure of Christ and the foolishness of his disciples. For some of the Jews, it was a sign of a curse from God (cf. Dt 21:22-23), which discredited Christ in their eyes. To those who have faith, however, the Cross is a sign of victory over sin and death-and ultimately over Satan himself-since through the Cross Christ redeemed us and opened the gates of Heaven for us. His Resurrection is a resounding proof of Christ’s victory over sin and death and grants us hope for our own resurrection, provided we are faithful to our Christian calling. (CCC 268, 272, 563, 2157)
Ch 1:21 Did not know God: This phrase does not point to the question of God’s existence; rather, it indicates that the Gentiles were not aware of his plan for redemption. (CCC 31, 39, 50)
Ch 1:26-31 Faith and vocation are gifts from God rather than a matter of merit or entitlement. He offers these gifts unconditionally to the wealthy and the poor, the powerful and the powerless, the educated and the simple, the Jew and the Gentile. The capacity for holiness is totally gratuitous and can never be obtained by human effort alone. (CCC 2025-2026, 2074, 2732)
Ch 1:27 God often selects individuals who are flawed, weak, simple, and without material resources. When such people demonstrate strength and boldness despite their personal limitations, it makes evident the presence and power of God working through them rather than any personal attribute. (CCC 489, 756, 2038)
Ch 1:30-31 Source of your life: God the Father is the source of all love, blessings, and spiritual gifts.
Sanctification and redemption: This summarizes our call from God, who invites us to grow in personal holiness and to accept the salvation he offers us. (CCC 2813)
Ch 2:1-5 Paul did not credit himself here with being an eloquent preacher. Rather, he vehemently testified that it was not his own rhetoric or his own interpretations that brought the Corinthians to believe in Christ but the power of the Holy Spirit working through him.
Fear and trembling: Rather than fright, this is awe and wonder in the knowledge and power of God. (CCC 1949)
Ch 2:6-16 The Apostles taught the wisdom of God, which was a profound elaboration of the teaching and life of Jesus Christ. This wisdom comes from the Holy Spirit, who instructs the Church and every follower of Christ regarding the mysteries of Christ and how they apply to particular historic, cultural, and personal circumstances. (CCC 221)
Ch 2:7-9 The call to everlasting glory in Heaven is supernatural and, therefore, beyond any human capacity to understand. Everlasting life will consist in seeing God face to face, resulting in an indescribably joy. (CCC 1998, 2690)
Ch 2:8 Rulers of this age: Those who put Christ to death were not aware of God’s plan for salvation, but they were still guilty for what they had done. This statement suggests vincible ignorance, whereby the Roman and Jewish authorities should have recognized the truthfulness and goodness reflected in both the speech and demeanor of Christ. Owing to their ill will and refusal to be open to what was true and just, however, they opted to crucify the Savior of the world. Since the Suffering of Christ has an eternal dimension, transcending time, and since the Person on the Cross was God, all of us, due to our sins, have a part to play in his Crucifixion.
Lord: The Old Testament uses this term to indicate God because the Jews believed they should not pronounce the name of God, Yahweh (YHWH). In the New Testament, “Lord” refers also to Jesus Christ, the Son of God. (CCC 446, 498, 598, 1790-1793)
Ch 2:9-10 Paul recited from Isaiah to indicate that the wisdom of God is now revealed through the Holy Spirit (cf. Is 64:4), which is the fulfillment of his plan of redemption from the beginning. The Holy Spirit, being God and the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity, knows everything pertaining to God, and his mission is to help us penetrate the teachings of Christ and to become intimately united to him. The infallible teachings of the Church rest on the unfailing wisdom and guidance of the Holy Spirit.
No eye has seen: Heaven is beyond our understanding and imagination, far more wonderful than anything we can conceive. (CCC 152, 230, 687-688, 1027)
Ch 2:11 Through the power of the Holy Spirit we can know God personally as a friend. Moreover, the Holy Spirit helps us to examine our conscience so that we can see how we fall short in our fidelity to the Gospel and what resolutions we need to make in following Christ. (CCC 39, 739, 2038)
Ch 2:14-16 The unspiritual man...the spiritual man: The “unspiritual man” seeks his happiness in power, material gain, and carnal pleasure. The “spiritual man,” however, is committed to living the demands of the Christian faith and, thereby, is open to the work of the Holy Spirit, who will give that person “the mind of Christ.” (CCC 389)
(*The Didache Bible RSV-CE Ignatius Edition, 2006)
Act 2: Witnesses in Judea and Samaria
Peter at Joppa
With the intense persecution against Christians in Jerusalem, Peter is constantly on the move visiting his scattered flock.
One place the faith spreads to is the seacoast town of Joppa, where Peter raises a disciple named Tabitha from the dead (Acts 9:36-41), an act that leads many in the town to faith in the Lord.
While in Joppa, Peter stays with Simon the tanner.
There he has a thrice-repeated vision of numerous animals that are unclean according to Jewish law.
A voice commands Peter to slaughter the animals and eat, to which a hungry yet horrified Peter responds, “No, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean” (Acts 10:15).
While Peter ponders the vision’s meaning, men from the house of a centurion, Cornelius, arrive from Caesarea Maritime to tell Peter that an angel had instructed their master, a God-fearing man, to send for Peter.
Joppa is the same city from which Jonah boarded a ship to avoid God’s call to go east to Nineveh, the capital of Israel’s enemy Assyria.
Jonah hoped that by taking a ship headed west, he would avoid God’s intended mission.
But on the voyage, Jonah realized that it was not so easy to thwart God’s plans and found himself conveyed by a large fish back on God’s path to Nineveh.
In response to Jonah’s preaching, the Gentile city repented and heeded God’s word, something that Israel had repeatedly refused to do, in spite of the many words and signs of prophets like Elijah and Elisha.
Given this background, it doesn’t take Peter, whose father’s name is Jonah (Mt 16:17), long to figure out that his vision that all meat is now clean means not only that the kosher laws are now obsolete but also—and more importantly—that the Gentile-Jewish divide has come to an end.
Kosher laws forced Jews to refuse to eat with Gentiles, and Peter’s vision points to God’s desire to bring a new table fellowship between Gentile and Jew.
Because of his vision, Peter understands that God is incorporating Gentiles into his covenant people.
Peter’s initial refusal to eat the meat in his vision—despite the Lord’s command—points out that everything in his upbringing goes against such a mission, as it did for Jonah before him.
Whereas Jonah initially refused to minister to the Gentiles, however, Peter obeys and makes the journey north to the large coastal port city of Caesarea Maritime.
Peter tells Cornelius when he meets him, “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit any one of another nation; but God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean. So when I was sent for, I came without objection” (Acts 10:28-29).
Cornelius explains his own vision from God, to which Peter proclaims, “Truly I perceive that God shows no partiality, but in every nation any one who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him” (Acts 10:34-35).
(*Walking With God: A Journey Through The Bible by Tim Gray and Jeff Cavins)