Word for the day by Christian Education Forum

Revelation: Calling the excluded
Acts 10: 9-16

Thomas Johnson

Carmel MTC, Boston

15 The voice said to him again, a second time, “What God has made clean, you must not call profane.” 


When I was an undergraduate in India I had a good friend whose father was an officer in the Indian Army. My friend once invited a few of us to the Army quarters for dinner. The only catch was this was going to be a formal dinner, to be eaten strictly, with knives and forks. One of our friends had never used silverware in his life and was understandably nervous. Nonetheless, he resolved to have this fancy dinner at the Army quarters. We could hear the uncomfortable clanks of his silver on his dinner plates as he unskilfully worked at his dinner. He did make it out of the event unscathed and was thankful for the unique, if slightly uncomfortable encounter.

That word – encounter – is one that Pope Francis often uses in his writings and speeches while exhorting Christians to engage meaningfully with the world. He notes that ‘Whenever we encounter another person in love, we learn something new about God’. Encounter carries with it the connotation of the unexpected and the potential for conflict and confrontation. The Jewish philosopher Levinas based his ethics on these kinds of encounters; he referred to the ‘moral challenge posed by the face of another’.

In today’s passage Peter is prepared for a unique encounter with Cornelius, the Gentile Centurion. God’s vision shows him a meal of all kinds of animals that were considered unclean according to Jewish custom. Upon his refusal to eat, God reminded him to ‘not call anything unclean that God has made clean.’ Peter rightly understood this vision as a commission from God to preach the Gospel to the ‘unclean’ Gentiles. Peter warmly received Cornelius’ messengers and in turn, visited Cornelius at his home. After baptizing all who were there, he was invited to stay with Cornelius for a few days. Peter and Cornelius truly had a flesh and blood encounter, partaking in each other’s fellowship, including ‘Gentile’ food. Peter’s dinners at the Roman Army ‘quarters’ would have been truly educational!

How often do we encounter the people outside our own fold? Truly giving of ourselves in love and receiving in return? Opening ourselves to the experiences and possibly conflicts and confrontation of God’s world? Today’s passage is an invitation for all of us to do so! Let us challenge ourselves with the ‘face of another’ and ‘learn something new about God’.


Lord, help us step out of our preconceived notions of what is clean and unclean. Give us the hunger to share Your good news with others, unconditionally. Amen.
God invites us to truly encounter the world, sharing the gospel with those we would ordinarily consider to be outsiders.

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