St. John Fisher Roman Catholic Church

30 Jones Hollow Road, Marlborough, CT 06447

6th Sunday of Easter B21

Dreams are very important because they reveal to us our fears, desires, our stresses, our happiness, and occasionally solutions to problems. Dreams are God’s vehicles of revelation in both the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures, witness Joseph, he of the many colored coat in Genesis and Joseph in Matthew’s account of the birth of Jesus.

The early church was having a crisis dealing with the ethnic and religious tensions that could have been the death knell of Jesus’ command to teach all nations. As more and more Gentiles believed in Jesus, the Jewish disciples were becoming concerned. Jesus was a Jew and believed by them to be the Jewish Messiah. So logic dictated the Gentiles had to enter into the Jewish faith tradition and follow all the Jewish prescriptions especially circumcision and dietary laws. Were they a requirement to be a follower of Jesus? The church in Jerusalem said yes; Paul, however, vehemently disagreed.

Enter Peter with his dream (trance).[1] Unfortunately it is not included in today’s reading. As Acts relates, Peter was at prayer about lunchtime when he saw in a trance a large sheet being lowered by its four corners which contained a feast of food. Peter heard a voice inviting him to “slaughter and eat”[2]. The only problem was that all the creatures the sheet held were those Jews were forbidden to eat. Peter objected saying nothing unclean has past his lips. But the voice reprimanded Peter saying, “What God has made clean, you are not to call profane.”[3] While Peter was still mulling over what had happened, Cornelius, a devout Roman centurion who gave alms to the Jews and prayed to God constantly, sent men to invite Peter to come to his house. Peter knew that was against the Law but the after-effect from his trance suggested he go. Unbeknownst to Peter, Cornelius had a similar dream. While Peter was talking, the Holy Spirit fell on those who were listening. Peter and his crew were astounded! Peter then asked: Why should Baptism be withheld on those who had received the Spirit in the same way as them. Cornelius and all who were in the house were baptized. The early church had its answer: “In truth, I see that God shows no partiality. Rather, in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightly is acceptable to him.”[4] A historic change occurred as a result.

The Church must always adapt to changing circumstances. In our day we face questions about divorced and remarried and the LGBTQ community, whether they can enjoy full membership with all the rights, privileges and duties that come with it. In addition we have serious questions about celibacy, married clergy and opening up ordination to the diaconate for women. We have arguments about the right to refuse vaccines for children, right to life and right to die at our choosing.

Some wish we could return to the “good ol’ days” in the Church. But the “good ol’ days” had some bad days as well, for example: mixed religion marriages were not encouraged and if one came up it had to be celebrated, not in church, but in a rectory office; also, fasting before receiving Holy Communion was to begin at midnight. Pity the priest who celebrated the final Mass in the morning and then had a couple of baptisms! No wonder the pastor took the early Mass that the pews were almost always full.

As the early Christian community had to come to grips with letting go of cherished ways of doing things, so too, the Church today has to learn to relinquish some things in order to recognize the new gifts that God wants to give. “No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what is left behind is fit for the kingdom of God.”[5] I hope and pray God sends someone a dream!

 

[1] Cf. Acts 10:9-16.

[2] Acts 10:13

[3] Acts 10:15

[4] Acts 10:34

[5] Luke 9:62

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