Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, Apostles
He asked his disciples,
“Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah,
still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis wrote “A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic —or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice”. So imagine you are Peter. Jesus is standing right in front of you and you have to give Him an answer. Who do you say He is?
If you asked around you would probably get a lot of different answers: a prophet, a wise man, a great teacher, a liar, a crazed lunatic, a bearded carpenter, a rabbi, a revolutionary, a hippie, a vegetarian, a homosexual, a lover of Magdalene, a partier, a victim, a healer, a misunderstood leader, a philosopher of love, a liberal, a conservative,a handsome entrepreneur, a rebel, a scapegoat, a communist, a figment of Paul’s imagination…the list could go on and on. Throughout history people have always tried to make Jesus who they wanted Him to be, but despite all the self-serving labels theyhave tried to tame Him with, the fact remains: He is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. And God is love.
Love isn’t safe. But He’s good. Love is powerful. But He’s gentle. Love hurts. But Hebinds all wounds. Love is a sacrifice, and Jesus is our living sacrifice. From the cross to the monstrance His love for us has never changed. He gave us His body and blood on Calvary, and He continues to offer us His body and blood in every Mass. His love is untamable. Until we are convinced of this love we cannot preach it to others. We can try,but they will see right through our fake smiles and free Bibles.
A good evangelist loves. St. Paul did not automatically become a saint after his conversion; he became a saint because he loved. He loved everyone as a child of God and his love brought others to an encounter with Christ. Are you convinced that God is love and that He loves you beyond all your faults and imperfections? Are you so filled with His love that you can’t help but pour it out on others? That’s how true evangelization works – in humility we are emptied of self so that God can fill us with His love, and then we pour it. We don’t receive His love and mercy to keep it to ourselves but to give it to others.
Second Chances Mother Angelica once said that when we go to confession it’s like throwing a drop of water into the ocean – our sins are completely consumed by the ocean of God’s mercy. And if you put a drop of water into the ocean, could you ever find it again? No way. That’s the way it is when we repent – the Lord doesn’t just forgive but he forgets too! He must forget, because if remembered I doubt he would put Peter and Paul in charge of the early Church. Think of how many times they failed! And yet He entrusted them with His bride, the Church!
Sometimes we can’t forgive ourselves and don’t think that God could be calling us to serve Him in the Church because of our past sins, but I stand by Saints Peter and Paul when I tell you that the past doesn’t matter. If you feel God calling you to serve then you have to give up your shame and pride and follow Him out upon the deepest waters of His mercy. It would be easy to make excuses like Jeremiah (cf. Jer 1:4-10) or run away like Jonah (cf. Jon 1:1-3), but we are called to repent and join in building the Church like saints Peter and Paul.
Preparing for the Mission Pope Francis recently gave a homily during which he said,“The Lord prepares the soul, prepares the heart – He prepares it in trial, He prepares it in obedience, He prepares it in perseverance. This is the difference between the apostolic mission given us by the Lord, and a common task. When the Lord gives a mission, He always has us enter into a process, a process of purification, a process of discernment, a process of obedience, a process of prayer. The great and the good also need the help of the Lord and preparation for the mission.” Speaking of the Old Testament prophet Elijah, the Holy Father also said, “he walks, obeys, suffers, discerns, prays…he finds the Lord.”
God has to bring us down to our knees sometimes to teach us to trust in His love.Would St. Paul have ever experienced such a deep conversion if he had been blinded by the light of God? Probably not. Without that experience he probably would have gone on persecuting the mystical body of Christ, the Church. Would St. Peter have been prepared to receive the keys to the Kingdom if he had not fallen so greatly by denying Jesus not once but three times? I don’t think so. As St. Therese of Lisieux said, “I understand very well why St. Peter fell. Poor Peter, he was relying upon himself. Before ruling the Church that is filled with sinners he had to experience for himself what a person is capable of with God’s help.”
Sometimes Love knocks you down. Sometimes Love lets you trip on your own pride. And sometimes Love allows you to experience the pain and suffering of others. God allows us to experience these things to make us kinder and more compassionate towards one another. Without experiencing such great trials in their own lives Saints Peter and Paul would not have been prepared to lead a pilgrim Church – a church of sinners seeking the to know the Lord.
Who does He say that we are? I think St. John Paul the II put it best when he said“We are not the sum of our weaknesses and failures. We are the sum of the Father’s love for us and our real capacity to become the image of his Son.” With sacrament of reconciliation that Jesus instituted when he gave the apostles the power to forgive sins(cf. Jn 20:21-23, Mt 9:6), He also gave us the ability to conform our hearts to His. If we were the sum of our weaknesses and failures then Simon son of Jonah could never have become St. Peter, and Saul of Tarsus could never have become St. Paul.
You and I are called to become saints as well. Each of us has a vocation to sainthood by rite of our baptism. But we cannot get there on our own. Like Saints Peter and Paul we have to entrust all our failures and past sins to the infinite love and mercy of Christ. And we have to entrust our futures to His amazing grace as our Blessed Mother Mary taught us when she said “do whatever He tells you” (cf. Jn 2:5). When we do these things we become the true image of the Son.
Saint Peter and Saint Paul, pray for us!
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