Christ is risen!
There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian Regiment, a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, who gave alms generously to the people, and prayed to God always. About the ninth hour of the day he saw clearly in a vision an angel of God coming in and saying to him, “Cornelius!” And when he observed him, he was afraid, and said, “What is it, lord?” So he said to him, “Your prayers and your alms have come up for a memorial before God. Now send men to Joppa, and send for Simon whose surname is Peter. He is lodging with Simon, a tanner, whose house is by the sea. He will tell you what you must do.” (Acts 10:1-6)
The Roman Centurian Cornelius is given shocking news by an angel – his righteous prayers and charitable gifts have been noticed by God! I’m sure we all would like to receive that message. What the angel doesn’t promise Cornelius is that his prayers will be answered. Rather, the angel tells him that since God has accepted his prayers and charitable deeds, God is now going to tell Cornelius what he must do. The reward for God hearing your prayers? It might not be what we hope – that God will give us what we want. Rather, when God accepts our prayers and good deeds, God takes notice of us and tells us what we must do! Our prayers and good deeds reveal to God our hearts and minds and tell God whether or not we will be willing to do His will. When our prayers are pleasing to God, that doesn’t necessarily mean God will grant our wishes, only that God sees us as having a heart, mind and soul which are willing to serve God.
In the case of Cornelius, he is told to send for the Apostle Peter who will be the one to tell Cornelius what God expects from him. Why Peter? St Gregory Palamas gives us some ideas as to why St Peter might have been chosen to reveal God’s will to Cornelius:
When He [Jesus] was referring to the company of believers as a building, He promised to make Peter the foundation stone, saying, ‘Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church‘ (Matthew 16: 18). On the other hand, when He was talking in terms of fishing, He made him a fisher of men with the words, ‘From henceforth thou shalt catch men‘ (Luke 5:10). But when He speaks of His disciples as sheep, he sets Peter over them as a shepherd, saying, ‘Feed my lambs, feed my sheep‘ (John 21:15-17). It is clear from this that the Lord’s desire for us to be saved is so great, that He asks of those who love Him only one thing: to lead us to the pasture and fold of salvation. (THE HOMILIES, p 223)
Our hope as Christians is mostly that God will hear our prayers and accept our charitable deeds as a memorials … so that God will then (have to) answer our petitions and fulfill them. One lesson from Cornelius is that our prayers and good deeds can be received by God, this will not necessarily result in God doing our will. The result may be that God will clearly reveal His will to us and tell us what we must do to accomplish God’s will.
In other words, we cannot hope to shift all the spiritual work needed in the world unto God. God rather intends us to accomplish His will.