New Vision

By Michael Fitzpatrick

A Reading from Acts 10:1-16

1 In Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion of the Italian Cohort, as it was called. 2 He was a devout man who feared God with all his household; he gave alms generously to the people and prayed constantly to God. 3 One afternoon at about three o’clock he had a vision in which he clearly saw an angel of God coming in and saying to him, “Cornelius.” 4 He stared at him in terror and said, “What is it, Lord?” He answered, “Your prayers and your alms have ascended as a memorial before God. 5 Now send men to Joppa for a certain Simon who is called Peter; 6 he is lodging with Simon, a tanner, whose house is by the seaside.” 7 When the angel who spoke to him had left, he called two of his slaves and a devout soldier from the ranks of those who served him, 8 and after telling them everything, he sent them to Joppa.

9 About noon the next day, as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. 10 He became hungry and wanted something to eat; and while it was being prepared, he fell into a trance. 11 He saw the heaven opened and something like a large sheet coming down, being lowered to the ground by its four corners. 12 In it were all kinds of four-footed creatures and reptiles and birds of the air. 13 Then he heard a voice saying, “Get up, Peter; kill and eat.” 14 But Peter said, “By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is profane or unclean.” 15 The voice said to him again, a second time, “What God has made clean, you must not call profane.” 16 This happened three times, and the thing was suddenly taken up to heaven.


We might prefer that God do everything all at once, but often that is not what we ourselves need. Before doing holy work, we must first become people capable of such work. When the people of Israel were called to be the chosen people, they were taught to see various things as unclean, as part of separating themselves (“becoming holy”) from the people around them. They were not to live as the rest of the people in Canaan. So they were given a law in which, through ritual and prohibition, they would live as those set apart.

Yet this was never the divine endgame. From the very beginning, Abraham received a promise that through him God would bless all people, not just the people of Israel. Thus a tension has always existed between the Jewish laws of separation and the divine goal of blessing all people. That tension found its resolution in the person of Jesus Christ.

St. Peter could not simply come to understand this intellectually. He needed to experience why Christ reveals God’s grace pouring forth on everyone. His vision focuses on the dietary laws of the Jewish people, so that once St. Peter realizes that no food can be unclean in itself, but is capable of being blessed, he can make the connection that the same is true of people.

Becoming people that can let the full vision slowly emerge in our lives means accepting that we are not ready for the full story, but God is busy making us ready.

Michael Fitzpatrick is a doctoral student in philosophy at Stanford University. He attends St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Palo Alto, Calif., where he serves as a lay preacher and teacher.

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Today we pray for:

Church of the Good Shepherd, Corpus Christi, Texas
The Diocese of Mandalay (Church of the Province of Myanmar)


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