The married life of my cousin and her husband was blessed with intimacy, prosperity and joy. But after a long time of trying, the couple remained childless. Adoption was a welcome but frightening option. The couple took a lot of time, discussion and prayer before they finally took the crucial step. A few days ago, they proudly introduced their adopted baby girl and brought her to church for baptism. This family will never be the same again, I’m sure.

The early Christians were faced with huge dilemmas. They were experiencing new situations. They were asking new questions. One such problematic concerned membership. Who were called to belong to this new community of faith? Did not Christ come to bring salvation to the Jews? Should the Gentiles or non-Jews be allowed to enter into the unity of God’s new people?

As Peter prayed hard (Acts 10), the Lord showed him a vision, and then a crucial realization. God was pushing the church beyond narrow limits toward a new broader direction. Peter and the others must take the lead to throw open the gates and welcome all – men, women, old, young, servants, free, rich, poor, Jew and Gentile. By accepting Cornelius and his household to the faith, Peter embraced the conviction that “God shows no partiality” and and that all who believe will equally receive the generous outpouring of the Holy Spirit. In the Resurrection, God’s heart is nothing but an open heart!

In our churches today, are we continuing the Easter message of openness and acceptance of others? Many times the poor feel excluded and unappreciated because of their status. In some places, the youth are neglected because they are too rowdy, undisciplined and scattered. At times the attitudes of church leaders drive people away because of the arrogance, greed, and selfishness they feel when they approach these leaders. The words mercy and compassion are great but where is its application in the daily life of the church?

As we are all members of the church, let us pray and work for a community of faith faithful to the inspiration of Peter. Let us start by welcoming new people, loving the unlovable and reaching out to the ones we never thought of approaching. They, like us, are people whom our Lord Jesus call friends, for whom he laid down his life.