| Today -Saturday June 29th- is an important Solemnity for Catholics celebrating two very different men who are the foundation of our Church -one of them literally!-. More specifically, it's celebrating the Martyrdoms of Saint Peter - who was a leader among the Apostles and the Rock that Jesus intended to build his Church on- and Saint Paul -who was so on fire with his love for Christ that he would bring the Word of God to the gentiles-. According to Wikipedia, " the celebration is of ancient origin, the date selected being the anniversary either of their death or of the translation of their relics". |
This is such an important celebration, that In Rome, it's the day where " Metropolitan archbishops installed during the course of the preceding year travel to Rome to receive their pallium,which is ".. a white, shawl-like woolen liturgical vestment worn over the shoulders of a metropolitan archbishop. It...symbolizes authority and union with the Holy See " (Vatican News) This union was an important part of Francis' homily, as he reminded us that the pallium, " while being a sign of communion with the Bishop of Rome and with the universal church, also commits each of the Archbishops to being a servant of communion." (Ibid)
However this solemnity should also cause us to remember Martyrs for the faith that still exist today. Let's keep in our prayers especially Fr Francois Murad, a Franciscan priest beheaded by Syrian rebels this past week -June 23rd- for his alleged 'collaboration' with the Assad government. Let's also pray for all Priests, Brothers, and Sisters who suffer such horrific fates because of their faith around the world to this day.
To commemorate the martyrdom of these two men who are so crucial to the Church, we don't remember the moment of their execution, but the moment when their faith shined forth the most dramatically. In the case of Peter, we have the 2 stories: that of his (some might say, highly implausible) escape from Prison, and that of that special moment when he received his vocation from Jesus. I'll focus more on the 2nd passage, the Gospel one. It' a powerful moment where Jesus gives him a different name: Cephas, or Petros, in Aramaic and Greek respectively, which means Rock. Jesus doesn't just give him a random name for funsies. He tells him that he will make him the foundation, the Rock upon which he will build his Church. It's humbling for us to see that this same man that Jesus knew would betray him 3 times, was despite his fears and imperfections, still deemed worthy of such a big job. What's important for us to note though is that although he may have known fear until the end of his life, he never let it control him again. Once he would encounter the risen Christ and remember this vocational moment of his, there would be no turning back on his mission to be a Rock for this Church.
I don't think Paul ever got such a big ego boost, especially not one from the Lord.On the other hand, he did get to 'taste and see the goodness of the Lord' through his own conversion, a moment that was so powerful for him that he wasted no time no long after his integration to the young community to go out into the world and set it on fire with Love for Christ. A moment that was so strong that even when facing death, it is not fear, but confidence that he feels. Confidence that he fought the good fight, ran a good race, and gave every ounce of his being to the Lord, to the Church. And with great humility, he recognizes that, if there was success in his ministry, it is not his own efforts that this was achieved, but by the power instilled within him through the Lord.
In the end, despite what we may think of these two men, we have to remember that they were humble, simple people, like us. What nourished their work was not any strength or power that we could never muster, but a deep faith, one that many of us share with them, one that unites us to them, and keeps their spirit at the heart of our Church. Are we all called to be Martyrs? I certainly hope not! But like them, we must face such hard questions as 'how will I offer my entire life to Christ Jesus', And, we must be genuine and honest in our quest for an answer to this question and others like it, if we intend to remain true to Christ, and to the faith that was the fire that fueled everything they did.
Acts 12: 1 - 11
|1||About that time Herod the king laid violent hands upon some who belonged to the church.|
|2||He killed James the brother of John with the sword;|
|3||and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. This was during the days of Unleavened Bread.|
|4||And when he had seized him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending after the Passover to bring him out to the people.|
|5||So Peter was kept in prison; but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church.|
|6||The very night when Herod was about to bring him out, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries before the door were guarding the prison;|
|7||and behold, an angel of the Lord appeared, and a light shone in the cell; and he struck Peter on the side and woke him, saying, "Get up quickly." And the chains fell off his hands.|
|8||And the angel said to him, "Dress yourself and put on your sandals." And he did so. And he said to him, "Wrap your mantle around you and follow me."|
|9||And he went out and followed him; he did not know that what was done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision.|
|10||When they had passed the first and the second guard, they came to the iron gate leading into the city. It opened to them of its own accord, and they went out and passed on through one street; and immediately the angel left him.|
|11||And Peter came to himself, and said, "Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting."|