“But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they” (Acts15:11).
As Christians, this eternal truth is well known, as is its importance to everyone. And yet these wonderful words have particular meaning today, as we recognize that they are the last recorded words of St. Peter. We’ll never know what his last words were, or those of any of the apostles, but we do know these are the last words from Peter’s lips recorded in Scripture.
What Peter has actually done (which is what the Holy Spirit has done) is to describe a tremendous earthquake that has occurred. It began with an earthquake on earth that occurred when the Son of Man died on the Cross, but that was just the beginning. That earthquake tore the massive veil of theTempleand at the same time the dividing wall between heaven and earth was also torn.
The heavenquake and earthquake continued on the third day, when Christ rose from the dead, along with others who had fallen asleep. But it didn’t stop then: it continued to advance on the Day of Pentecost and, in fact, all throughout the Acts of the Apostles.
What was this devastating earthquake? It was the work of God in destroying the Old Covenant and creating the New. What Peter experienced as he saw Gentiles be accepted by God and capable of salvation was one of the most dramatic demonstrations of the destruction of the Old and the creation of the New.
So powerful was the coming of the New Covenant in Jesus Christ that the Jews and the Gentiles, ancient enemies, were now one. The enmity between men and women was now capable of being replaced by peace. All the ancient divisions crumbled so that the Body of Christ in the New Covenant could truly be one.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the fact that both Jew and Gentile were saved through the grace of Jesus Christ by faith. Grace is the great bomb that levels all men and flattens us before Almighty God. Jew and Gentile, men and women, masters and slaves, adults and children, and whatever other unhappy divisions we humans have are all decimated by Jesus Christ and in His Body. All of those who believe have died with Christ.
And then, having leveled us before Him, God raises us up by that same grace. Peter continues to make distinctions, but suddenly they take on a new meaning. Throughout his speech, he pits “us” against “them,” only it’s no longer a contest. It’s a recognition of important human differences but also an acknowledgment that what unites is now greater than what divides.
Through the grace of Jesus Christ we (the Jews) shall be saved in the same manner as they (the Gentiles). This grace of God is indeed a potent force. It creates unity where once there was division; it creates peace where once there was war; and most especially it unites man to God, who were once apart from one another.
It knocked St. Paul down on the road to persecute Jesus Christ, and it smacked Peter in the face so that even the stubborn one could see that Gentiles could now be saved. It even has the power to save people like you and me!
It encourages us when we are discouraged and raises up those who were dead, surrounded by the grace of the Body of Christ. It speaks in the silence and silences the tumult. It gives us beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, and a garment of praise for a spirit of heaviness. It turns weakness into strength and suffering into glory.
It is the grace of God in your life. Like Peter and like Paul, may you find the grace of your Lord Jesus Christ to be the power to save and heal today!
Prayer: O most blessed Grace, that makes the poor in spirit rich in virtues, and makes the wealthy humble of heart! Come, descend upon me, fill me with your comfort, lest my soul faint from weariness and dryness of mind. I beseech You, O Lord, that I may find grace in your sight, for your grace is sufficient for me even if I never obtain anything which my nature desires. If I am tempted and tried I will fear no evil as long as Your grace is with me. Your grace is my strength, my counsel and my help. She is more powerful than all my enemies and wiser than all the wise. She is the mistress of truth, the teacher of discipline: the light of the heart, the comforter in affliction. She banishes sorrow, expels fears, nurses devotion, produces tears of repentance. What am I without her but a piece of dry timber or a withered stump, fit for nothing but to be cast into the fire. Grant therefore, O Lord, that Your grace will always go before me and follow me, keeping me ever intent upon good works, through Jesus Christ Your Son. Amen. (Thomas a Kempis)
Point for Meditation: Reflect upon the grace of God in your life.
Resolution: I resolve to reflect upon the grace of God in my life and to practice giving thanks for it throughout the day.
© 2012 Fr. Charles Erlandson
Category: Give Us This Day