Liturgical Colour : White
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day all of us heard of how the Lord has called all of the peoples from various nations and places to follow Him, to walk in His path and to listen to Him, for He is the One true Shepherd and Lord of all, the Good Shepherd of all the flock and people of God. We who have been created by God are His people and we are all part of this same flock He has been gathering from the nations, called to be His people.
And we are all equal before God, equally loved and cherished by Him, for that is why He created each and every one of us, with equal opportunities to enjoy His wonderful love and grace, and with equal attention from His loving and tender care. This is precisely the message that He had told His Apostle St. Peter, the chief shepherd that He had appointed to be His Vicar and the leader of the whole of His universal flock, the Church, that everyone may come to know of the love of God and come to His loving embrace.
In today’s first reading, we heard about the testimony of St. Peter the Apostle to the other Apostles and disciples in Judea, in the light that some among the disciples wanted to impose strict Jewish laws and customs to all the faithful, while some even despised those who went to the Gentiles, spoke with them and ministered to them. And that included St. Peter himself who was attacked for his travel to Joppa, his works among the Gentiles and his visit to the house of Cornelius, a Roman and a Gentile in the eyes of the Jews.
At that time, the prevailing sentiment among the Jewish people especially in Judea, and even more so amongst the members of the Pharisees was that association and contacts with the Gentiles or the non-Jewish people were undesirable and to be avoided as far as possible. To them the Gentiles were pagans and unbelievers, filthy and corrupted by their sins, and because of this, they did not want to defile themselves by associating, meeting or going to the house of a Gentile.
And this was made even more complicated by the then recent history of the persecution of the Jewish faith and traditions by the Greeks under the Seleucid Greek kings, overcome only by years of stiff and stubborn resistance by the local Jewish rebels and fighters under the Maccabees. Then, later on the Romans came and took over power, and their taxation and persecution of the Jews made the sentiment against the Gentiles even worse as years passed by.
But the Lord showed St. Peter a vision, showing him all the food in the form of animals that had been considered as unclean under the old Jewish laws and customs. The Lord told St. Peter to eat of the food from the animals considered unclean, but St. Peter resisted and said that he should not eat of what the Law considered to be unclean, and the Lord chided him for not following and doing what the Lord had declared to be clean and good. As He repeated this divine vision three times, the Lord told St. Peter the truth and His intention, that He wants all of His people to be reconciled to Him, to find their way to Him and to be part of His Church.
This is in contrast to what those hardline Jews and the Pharisees among the earliest Christian converts upheld, in their view that only the Jewish customs, practices and ways of life can assure them of God’s salvation and grace. The Lord wanted the Apostles, His disciples and all of us to know that He, our Good Shepherd has called us all, His scattered flock and sheep all around the world, that we may be reunited with Him, and find our way to the salvation and new life through Him.
We are all truly blessed that our Lord, the Good Shepherd has revealed God’s most wonderful love to each and every one of us. We have been given a new lease of life by the Lord and we must appreciate whatever it is that we have been given. We are all reminded that indeed there is only one flock, and there is just one Shepherd. All the whole Church is this flock of the Lord, and all of us have been called by the Lord from all the nations that there will be no more divisions among us, Gentile or Jew, poor or rich, or by any other standards of life we often use to divide ourselves.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us are called to be good examples to one another, imitating the Good Shepherd, our Lord Himself. If our Good Shepherd has been so loving and caring towards us, then we should also show the same love towards our fellow brothers and sisters, as after all we are all part of this same flock of our Lord, and we have all been loved equally by God. Let us all love one another just as the Lord, our Good Shepherd has loved us.
And let us all focus our lives once again on the Lord and put Him at the centre of all of our lives and existence. May the Lord be with us always, and may He strengthen each and every one of us that we may be ever filled with love and conviction to serve God with all of our strength, now and always. Amen.