"A devout man and one who feared God with all his household, and gave many alms to the Jewish people and prayed to God continually.
About the ninth hour of the day he clearly saw in a vision an angel of God who had just come in and said to him, "Cornelius!"
And fixing his gaze on him and being much alarmed, he said, "What is it, Lord?" And he said to him, "Your prayers and alms have ascended as a memorial before God." (Acts 10:2-4)
I had one of those "duh" moments thinking about this the other day. I was wondering why this guy seemed to get on God's good side by his good works. I knew the Scriptures said all our good works are as filthy rags, but it seemed like God made an exception for this guy.
Then Jesus' words rang clearly in my head: "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled."
It was not because God was impressed with his good works that he sent an angel to Cornelius. "No one does good; not even one." Rather, it was because of Cornelius' great desire to be made righteous in the sight of God. And so we see that God sent an angel to Cornelius and told him to find Peter who would tell him how to get that righteousness he so longed for.