Peter, a Christian and a Jew, took the unprecedented step of entering the house of a Gentile, Cornelius (Acts 10:25). Gentiles, that is, non-Jews, were excluded from the company of Jews. However, the Holy Spirit made it crystal-clear to Peter that he was to enter Cornelius' house (Acts 11:5ff; 11:12).
The Spirit hadn't yet instructed Peter what to say to the assembled Gentiles. So Peter "proceeded to address them" with a standard witness to the risen Lord (Acts 10:34ff). Then Peter brought up the subject of sin (Acts 10:43). Based on his previous preaching in Acts, it's quite possible that Peter's next words would have involved accountability for sin and the need for deep repentance. Theologically this makes good sense, but the Holy Spirit had a different subject in mind, for the Spirit took over from Peter. "Peter had not finished these words" about forgiveness of sins "when the Holy Spirit descended upon all who were listening to Peter's message" (Acts 10:44). Although Peter's Jewish Christian companions were surprised at this turn of events (Acts 10:45), Peter followed "the Spirit's lead" perfectly (Gal 5:25). Rather than trying to take the floor back from the Holy Spirit and finish his sermon, Peter "gave orders that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ" (Acts 10:48).
Let us hear the voice of Jesus (Jn 10:16) and thereby learn the voice of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit knows exactly what is the right word at the right time (see e.g. 1 Cor 2:10ff). Like Peter, let us "live by the Spirit" and "follow the Spirit's lead" (Gal 5:25).
|Rescript: In accord with the Code of Canon Law, I hereby grant the Nihil Obstat ("Permission to Publish") for One Bread, One Body covering the period from April 1, 2005 through May 31, 2005.
†Most Reverend Carl K. Moeddel, Vicar General and Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, October 12, 2004.