|Peter Preaching to Cornelius and His Household|
As I was praying about this weekend's readings, a line from the Acts of the Apostles touched my heart. To give some background, Cornelius--a gentile--had received a vision where he was told to send for Peter. At the same time, Peter had a vision telling him that Cornelius would be sending for him. Now, Peter is in the home of Cornelius and he begins to preach the Word of God. The line that struck me was, "As Peter was still saying this, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word" (Acts 10:44). The Holy Spirit didn't fall before Peter spoke and it didn't fall after he spoke. It fell upon those people while Peter was still speaking. In some way, this line from scripture provides a balanced view on how we approach our preaching of the Word. The fact that the Holy Spirit didn't descend before Peter preached is an indication of the importance of our instrumentality. The fact that the Holy Spirit didn't wait until Peter was done speaking indicates that we are only servants of the Holy Spirit and not masters of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit fell on those people and they became believers and were baptized. How awesome is that?
Pope Benedict XVI recently wrote a beautiful letter entitled, "Porta Fidei" ("The Door of Faith") in which he declared that beginning on October 11, 2012, the whole Church will enter into a Year of Faith. In it, he writes that we all need to rediscover the journey of faith, the joy of faith, the content of faith, the Word of God, and the zeal to be credible witnesses before the world. I read his letter the day it came out and--once again--through the preaching of Peter, the Holy Spirit fell. Immediately, I felt convicted that I need to make this Year of Faith my central pastoral activity from now until it ends in November 2013. To the best of my ability, I want to spend this year preaching the Faith and implementing pastoral initiatives that will help me and my people rediscover the Faith. I really believe that if I and my people dedicate ourselves to listening to the Word of God, the Holy Spirit is going to fall upon us in splendid ways. That will happen not because we can manipulate the Spirit into doing our bidding, but because when we are faithful to the movement of the Holy Spirit and do His bidding, He gives Himself and brings newness and joy.
Two thousand years ago in a place called Caesarea, Peter got up and preached Jesus Christ. While he was still speaking, the Holy Spirit fell upon his listeners. Two thousand years later, the Successor of St. Peter is speaking. He is telling all of us that we need once again to return to the content of the Faith (and the content is ultimately a Person). He is inviting us to rediscover the joy of our Faith in Jesus Christ and once again to live the encounter with Christ and to bear witness to this encounter.
Peter is speaking and already the Holy Spirit is falling down upon his listeners. But, I trust that we haven't seen anything yet. If we spend this year attentive to the call to Faith, the Holy Spirit is going to do something amazing. For me and my parishes, that means that we need to plan and get ready because He is about to do something new.