Vatican City — God wills the salvation of all persons, Pope Francis said in his general audience Oct. 16, reflecting on the Acts of the Apostles.
"This is the aim: to overcome particularism and open oneself to the universality of salvation, because God wants to save everyone. Those who are reborn by water and the Spirit - the baptized - are called to come out of themselves and open themselves up to others, to live close together, in the style of living together, which transforms every interpersonal relationship into an experience of fraternity."
He said St. Peter is "the witness of this process of 'fraternization' that the Spirit wants to trigger in history, citing Peter's vision in which he was told to eat animals that were impure in Jewish law.
"With this fact, the Lord wants Peter no longer to evaluate events and people according to the categories of the pure and the impure, but to learn to go beyond, to look at the person and the intentions of his heart," Francis said. "What makes man impure, in fact, does not come from outside but only from within, from the heart. Jesus said this clearly."
After his vision, St. Peter preached "the crucified and risen Christ and the forgiveness of sins to whoever believes in Him" to the household of Cornelius, a gentile, and baptized there.
"This extraordinary fact - it is the first time that something of this type has happened - becomes known in Jerusalem, where the brothers, scandalized by Peter's behaviour, harshly reproach him. Peter did something that went beyond what was usual, beyond the law, and for this reason they rebuke him," the pope stated.
"But after the encounter with Cornelius, Peter is more free from himself and more in communion with God and with others, because he has seen God's will in action in the Holy Spirit."
Because of this, St. Peter can "understand that the election of Israel is not the reward for merits, but the sign of the gratuitous call to mediate the divine blessing among pagan peoples."
For Pope Francis, St. Peter teaches "that an evangelizer cannot be an impediment to the creative work of God ... but one that fosters the encounter of hearts with the Lord."
He asked: "How do we behave with our brothers and sisters, especially with those who are not Christians? Are we impediments to the encounter with God? Do we hinder or facilitate their encounter with the Father?"
The pope concluded, saying: "Today we ask for the grace to allow ourselves to be astonished by God's surprises, not to hinder His creativity, but to recognize and encourage the ever new ways in which the Risen One pours out His Spirit into the world and attracts hearts."