The Spirit told me to accompany them without discriminating.
Acts of the Apostles 11: 12
Peter is trying to explain why he baptized a Roman centurion and his household. His fellow followers of Jesus had a great problem accepting that non-Jews could embrace discipleship of Jesus.
He tells them about the outpouring of the Spirit on the household of Cornelius and remarks in Acts 11: 18:
“If then God gave them the same gift he gave to us when we came to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to be able to hinder God?”
This was a powerful moment in the early Church. Christ Jesus came not only to save Jews, but all people.
I would probably not be as attuned to these words of today’s first readings if Sister Pat Farrell was not visiting me here in Plan Grande. We are preparing a workshop on Conflict Transformation and last night she mentioned the importance of putting aside our immediate judgments when we are in the midst of a conflict. Doing this can help us see a bit of what the other person or group is trying to say.
So when I read the word “discriminating,” I was taken aback. So I checked the Greek which reads μηδὲν διακρίναντα. Sure enough, διακρίνω means not only discriminate, but can also mean evaluate or judge.
Peter was being taught by the Spirit to be open to what is different, what is other, what shakes up his worldview.
As I reflect on this I recall the remark of Pope Francis when asked about gay priests who were seeking to live faithfully, “Who am I to judge?”
In his apostolic exhortation The Joy of the Gospel, ¶72, Pope Francis amplified the meaning of this oft-quoted statement:
One who accompanies others has to realize that each person’s situation before God and their life in grace are mysteries which no one can fully know from without. The Gospel tells us to correct others and to help them to grow on the basis of a recognition of the objective evil of their actions (cf. Mt 18:15), but without making judgments about their responsibility and culpability (cf. Mt 7:1; Lk 6:37).
What a different world – and church – we would have if we adopted this openness to the actions of the Spirit, this willingness to look for the good in others, and this lack of judgmentalism.
Then I think we would be better disciples.