4th Week of Easter

The Holy Spirit fell upon them. (Acts 11:15)

Imagine that you are a neurosurgeon in training, and one day when all of the seasoned doctors are absent, an emergency case arrives. You have to make a choice: operate and risk the consequences or wait and risk even more difficult complications.

In today’s passage, Peter isn’t performing brain surgery, but he does have to make a snap decision that will have lasting ramifications for the Church. Risking the consequences, he went against accepted Jewish practice and decided to include non-Jewish people in the Christian faith. Now he has to defend his actions.

Looking back, it’s hard to believe that Gentiles (which most of us are) weren’t always part of the picture. But it’s true! Centuries of prejudice and distrust had built up toward the Gentiles. They were the “unclean,” sinful peoples who had never received the Torah—not to mention, they had invaded, oppressed, and exploited the Jewish people for centuries. It took a dramatic work of the Holy Spirit to convince Peter to change the accepted approach.

For many of us, the thorny issue of Jewish-Gentile relationships is a foreign concept. Still, other prejudices can shape the way we treat people who are different from us. Maybe it’s the way that a person talks or dresses. Maybe social or racial differences affect us. Perhaps a group of people has a different approach to worship—even within the Church. There is no lack of division among God’s people!

Have you ever noticed that when you think about these people, you feel a little nudge to reach out and maybe even befriend them? It may be faint, and it may pass, but it’s there. That’s the Holy Spirit moving in your heart! He’s helping you look past your personal biases to see these other people as brothers and sisters.

If you are finding it hard to accept someone who is different from you, try inviting the Holy Spirit to help you soften your heart. It’s okay if you don’t “feel” a change right away. Just keep asking the Spirit for his help, and you’ll see changes over time. You’ll find yourself becoming more patient and forgiving. The issues that once bothered you will slowly lose their sting. Stay close to the Spirit, and he will make a difference!

“Holy Spirit, come soften my heart. Bring unity among all your people.”

Psalm 42:2-3; 43:3-4
John 10:1-10