Sunday, May 10, 2015

Why Did The Christian Cross The Road?

6th Sunday of Easter (B)

Picture: cc Megan Trace

Sisters and brothers, are you familiar with that series of riddles that have to do with a chicken crossing the road? For example, why did the chicken cross the road? To get to the other side. Or why did the turkey cross the road? To prove that she wasn’t a chicken. Or why did the horse cross the road? Because it was the chicken’s day off. Sounds rather silly. But it could be a serious question too, right? After all, it can be a very dangerous thing for a chicken to cross the road. And if, despite the danger, the chicken still insists on crossing the road, then we might be forgiven for wondering at its exact reasons for doing so.

There are, of course, no chickens in our Mass readings today. But there is someone crossing a road of some sort. In the first reading, we find Peter crossing a rather big road. Perhaps even an expressway. It is the road that divides Jew from Gentile. The clean from the unclean. And not only is it against the law to cross this road, it is also a potentially dangerous thing to do. Who knows what his fellow Jews might think? Who knows how they will react? After all Jews, as you know, believed Gentiles to be unclean. And yet here is Peter, not only speaking to a Gentile, but visiting his home. And, subsequently, even staying there for some days. What are Peter’s reasons for doing this? Why does he cross the road? Why should any Christian bother to cross the road? This, my dear sisters and brother, is the question that I believe our Mass readings are helping us to answer today.

The first reason why Peter decides to cross the road is because he has come to a certain realisation. The truth I have now come to realise, Peter tells his listeners in Cornelius’ house, is that God does not have favourites. Peter crosses the wide road that separates Jew and Gentile, because he has come to realise the same truth that Paul writes about in the 1st letter to Timothy. That God desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (2:4).

Now this is a radical shift in thinking. Especially for someone who believes himself to be a member of a chosen people. And that is true also for the rest of us Christians. We too believe ourselves to be a chosen people. But it’s important for us to understand the nature of this choice. God indeed chooses us. But not in a way that excludes others. We are not members of an elite club. God has no favourites. God wants everyone to be saved. Which is why, like Peter, every Christian is called to cross the road. To share the good news we have received with others.

But how did Peter come to this realisation in the first place? He didn’t arrive at it on his own. It was revealed to him. And that is the second reason why Christians cross the road. Revelation. In Peter’s case, the revelation had come in the form of a vision he experienced even before he was invited to Cornelius’ house. In this vision, Peter had heard God telling him that what God had made clean, he was not to call unclean.

What’s more, while at Cornelius’ house, Peter receives yet another revelation. With his own eyes and ears, he witnesses the power of the Holy Spirit at work. For only just after he begins to speak to his hosts, and even before he has had a chance to pray for them, his listeners suddenly start speaking strange languages and proclaiming the greatness of God. With this new revelation, any remaining doubts Peter may have had before are now dispelled. God really does wish even Gentiles to be saved. Could anyone refuse the water of baptism to these people?

But that’s not all. The second reading reminds us of an even earlier, more foundational, revelation than these. God’s love for us was revealed, we’re told, when God sent into the world his only Son so that we could have life through him. This is the foundational revelation. The revelation in which Jesus crossed the infinitely wide road separating heaven from earth. Creator from creation. Divinity from humanity. Holiness from sin. Life from death. Revelation. The second reason why Christians cross the road. The revelation of God’s deep love for us. Granted by the Father, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit.

The gospel gives us one more reason for crossing the road. If you keep my commandments, Jesus tells us, you will remain in my love… What I command you is to love one another. The third reason why Christians cross the road is so that they may remain in the love of God. May remain in the God who is love. For to cross the road for others, is also to imitate Christ, who crossed the road for us. It is to love as we have first been loved. And so to live in God, as God lives in us.

Realisation, revelation, and remaining. These are the 3 key reasons why we Christians cross the road. Even when it’s inconvenient. Even when it may be a dangerous thing to do. These are the reasons why we love, even our enemies. Why we share the Good News, even with strangers. Why we reach out to the poor and the needy, even when our efforts may go unnoticed or unappreciated. The reasons are clear enough. This is what our readings do for us. They give us the answer to the question why do Christians cross the road?

But there is another question that we need to ask, isn’t there? The answer to which we do not find in our readings. For even if we know why we should cross the road, we need also to know what exactly are the roads that each of us needs to cross at this particular point in time. Perhaps there is someone against whom we have been bearing a grudge. Or who has been bearing a grudge against us. Could this be the time for us to cross the road from conflict to reconciliation? Perhaps there is a situation of injustice that we know of, but have been keeping quiet about. Could this be the time for us to cross the road from silence to speech? Perhaps, like Peter, we too know a Cornelius. Someone who might be interested in Christ. Could this be the time for us to cross the road from apathy to evangelisation?

Sisters and brothers, not unlike that notorious jay-walking chicken in the riddles, we Christians have been given more than enough reasons to cross the road. But what exactly is the road that you are being asked to cross today?

1 comment:

  1. O Lord, teach me to cross the road from division/conflict to RECONCILIATION in Your time.

    Grant me, O Lord,the humility and the necessary graces to be an effective BRIDGE and a helpful link between broken and wounded people, so much in need of Your love and healing.

    May I learn to cross the road which You would like to cross here and now. Amen.

    Sih Ying
    12 May 2015