The next day, as they were on their journey and coming near the city, Peter went up on the housetop to pray, about the sixth hour. And he became hungry and desired something to eat; but while they were preparing it, he fell into a trance and saw the heaven opened, and something descending, like a great sheet, let down by four corners upon the earth. In it were all kinds of animals and reptiles and birds of the air. And there came a voice to him, “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.” But Peter said, “No, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.” And the voice came to him again a second time, “What God has cleansed, you must not call common” (Acts 10: 9-15).
I recently read the above verses and I realized how significant this narrative was in changing Peter’s proclamation of the Gospel in relationship to non-Jews. This voice instructs Peter to eat of various animals, reptiles, and birds that were considered “unclean” and off limits to the Jewish diet. Peter affirmed that in his response to the voice. Then we hear, “what God has cleansed, you must not call common.” Reading further, Peter encounters the Gentile Cornelius (who is unclean) and proceeds to baptize him after he receives the Holy Spirit (Acts 10:34-48).
What does this have to do with life in the family being an icon of a little Church? Parents do bear the huge responsibility of raising their children in the Orthodox Church. With the help of the Church, they preserve Her Apostolic Tradition, faithfully passed on through Apostolic Succession. Peter was told to change his approach in proclaiming the Gospel. He was told to share it with people he had nothing to do with.
We live in a world today that has changed much in the last ten years. (Or has it?). What does this mean for parents and their children? Who are the Gentiles of today, with whom we have nothing to do? What has God sanctified today that “we must not call common?” What message do we give them? I am delving into dangerous territory here because this can be interpreted to mean things that are not intended.
The one thing I am sure of is that we need to love those whom God brings into our midst regardless of their backgrounds. We need to be open to dialogue with anyone God brings into our lives and not give them the cold shoulder. The “unclean” people with whom we interact need to become aware of the sanctifying grace of the Church as Sacrament. If they seek Her in order to know Jesus Christ in the fullness of truth, they need to know they are welcome, just as Peter received Cornelius.
The blessing of the Lord be upon you,
The unworthy +Paul