Catholic baptism today is most often a small ceremony featuring a very young child and loving parents and family. Still, it’s a moving moment, and I believe a child really hears/feels/senses its message: “you are our beloved child – we’re delighted in you!” Jesus heard that loud and clear; it must have given him huge consolation: he was, after all, as human as we are.

But Peter’s words add another note to today’s feast: “catholicity.” Its Greek root means ‘universality.’  “I see,” Peter says, “that God shows no partiality. Rather…whoever fears him and acts uprightly is acceptable to him.”

In a world as polarized as ours (often by religion!), we need to hear and grasp that message. Jesus exemplified it all his life: he accepted everyone and his acceptance changed lives: the Samaritan woman (with five ‘husbands’), Matthew and Zaccheus (hated Roman tax-extractors), Peter (despite his traitorous denial). Only Judas refused his mercy.  

—Fr. Jack O’Callaghan, S.J. assists the Dean at Loyola University’s Stritch School of Medicine with programs in Ignatian Spirituality.