We often hear it said, "Nobody is perfect" or, we say with a chuckle, "I'm no saint." We will admit that we have faults. We even admit that we are sinners. But then, where do we go from there? What do we do next?
The first reading today from the Acts of the Apostles is a continuation of last Sunday's first reading. Peter is standing up publicly with the other Apostles and calling out to the Jews and others in Jerusalem to announce to them the horrible sin in which they have participated, mainly, the mock trial and murder of the innocent man Jesus of Nazareth. No doubt the people were all uncomfortable with the incident. Very probably they were sad and disturbed. Perhaps they even regretted it deeply. But, now that it was over and in the past, people were just trying to get on with their daily lives. So, Peter stands up and calls out that a proper fear of God requires them to face their involvement rather than forget it. He deliberately and publicly reminds them of something they are trying to forget. They are guilty of murdering God's chosen man.
How would we react to Peter's message today? Would we find him offensive and judgmental? Wouldn't we tell him to mind his own business? Wouldn't we ask him who he thinks he is to accuse us? After all, he is a sinnertoo! Right?
I wonder, who do you allow to call you to repentance today? We imagine ourselves to be independent and well informed thinkers. We put up our defenses and call it "critical thinking." Who in your life do you allow to tell you that you have done wrong? Who do you acknowledge in your life that can call you to account before God? Can anyone call you to this publicly? I am sure that most of us (myself included) can give a short list of peoplewho hold this place in our life. But may I suggest to you that this is still inadequate?
Look at these 3,000 men who were "cut to the heart" and asked the apostles, "What do we do?" Among those who heard the Apostle's that day, Peter would not have been on anyone's short list of trusted friends. The Apostles were preaching publicly to the crowds. What did they have in common with the Apostles? They were Jews in Jerusalem for the feast of Pentecost. These 3,000 men addressed the Apostles as "brothers." They shared a conviction that they were the kinfolk of one another by way of their covenant withGod. So, it seems, that the crowds believed God might speak through these men.
There appears to be a willing (but not happy) disposition to be called to task publicly and before God by their "brothers" in the Jewish community of millions. They certainly did not agree on everything theologically or politically, but this did not lead to a defensiveness and refusal to listen to an open and public call to repentance.
How do you and I hear the voice of the Church today? How do we hear the voice of our brothers and sisters in the Church? Do we allow ourselves to be called to task in a public manner for our sins? Or, do we refuse to hear any call to repentance that is delivered in such a manner by someone who is not on our short list? Do we believe that God regularly speaks publicly? Or, do we falsely assume that He only speaks to us in private?What do we do when we are called to repentance publicly?
Our faith is public. While the details of our confession are not public, our repentance is and should be. In fact, the repentance of Christians is rightly on display for the world to see. This is a part of our witness to the world that God's mercy is trustworthy. Let us not close our hearts to a wisdom that requires us to change our mind and let go of our treasured false opinions. May we be "cut to the heart" by a call to repentance that demands of us both humility and a proper fear of the Lord. Let us hear Peter say to us publicly "Repent and be baptized, everyone of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."