|Solemnity of Saints Peter and
Psalm 34:2-3, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9
2Timothy 4:6-8, 17-18
So as to be more available to the graces of these readings, imagine Peter and Paul, both in prison and in chains, discussing their respective histories that got them in this predicament. Their faces reveal a great trust in their having been called and they rattle their chains occasionally as they laugh at each other's stories.
These past few weeks we have celebrated the Resurrection of Jesus, the Ascension, The Holy Spirit, The Trinity, The Body and Blood of Jesus and now we celebrate the Church's being begun by the preaching of its two great Apostles, Peter and Paul. In the coming weeks we return to "Ordinary Time" which contains the liturgies meant to help us celebrate and live what we have heard as Church. We can pray with what we have heard lately in the readings since Easter. Jesus rose and went about collecting his old friends and picking up many new ones. We can pray with how his friends were sent out to extend his ways. We have heard that his Spirit is sent to stay with and within us. Peter and Paul were human beings like ourselves and yet they were called, they allowed the Good News in and then lived it out. We can pray to accept our calls to stop listen and look for his call and where we can live it out. We pray with our desires to be in and of the Church; not arguing religion, but religiously arguing with the ways of the world within and around us.
It has been said, "You can't keep a good man down." We have a good story in the First Reading today which highlights that thought. Peter is arrested, put in prison, chained between two soldiers and is preparing to be executed as was James, the brother of John, before him. Yes, just as you suspected, an angel appears, wakes him up, leads him out and then leaves him alone. What we do not hear is that Peter goes directly to the community who has been praying for him. They are amazed, make sure that he is actually he, and then Peter moves off to assure others that he too has risen from the prison. It is the feast of Paul as well so we pay close attention to the Second Reading. Paul is writing this near the end of his preaching-life. This is a boast of faith in all that the Lord has done for and through him. In the verses we do not hear from this chapter, Paul encourages the community to stay strong in the preaching against new and false teachings which will arise because of personal tastes and desires for novelties. Paul then attests that the Lord has rescued him many times and he will continue to save him until his being brought safely into the "heavenly kingdom." Paul had poured out his life as a "libation" or sacrificial sprinkling through his tireless travels and preaching to the "gentiles." He is finishing this emptying and offers his last encouraging words to those who will live and proclaim the same authentic message he had received and shared.
The Gospel returns our focus to Peter and his second calling. When Jesus asks about who the people on the roads say he, Jesus, is, Peter replies for himself and apparently his companions, that Jesus is the "Divine one," and so the "Messiah." This is the highpoint of the relationship between Jesus and those whom he had called. Jesus proclaims that this act of belief comes, not from a physical presentation of evidence, but as a gift from heaven. Faith then is more than examining evidence.
In this reading there is the beginning of the handing over, the "tradition" of Jesus' being extended, expanded, made larger than one life. As Peter and the other apostles were called, so all that Jesus gives to Peter is meant to continue the calling so that those who hear and follow will be called, well, "The Called." Jesus never was the "convincer" but the "inviter." Peter is offered the position of "rock" or foundation slab. The "keys" are not meant for locking up, but keeping safe for future distribution of the original and authentic Jesus.
Saint Peter is the patron of those who catch fish for a living. Every last Sunday of June, there is the blessing of the fishing fleet in the harbor at Gloucester, Massachusetts. The Church official will bless those, whose boats gather to receive something; a blessing, a good-luck sign, a fun-in-the-sun display. There will be boats of all sizes and price tags. It is a tradition. Those many boats are a great symbol for the Church. As Jesus asked Peter, what people are saying about him, Jesus, so the world is asking the Church who the world is. The world is asking the Church why does it think it has the right to ask. The Church does not ask the world what it thinks the Church is. They might answer by saying that the Church ought to stick to merely the blessing of boats. Peter and Paul were rescued from being shut up, discredited and put away for good. They were also rescued for as well as from. They were freed to bless by their preaching, more than boats.
There are many sizes of buildings we refer to as churches of course, but they are nothing more than harbors and their bells call out, not as timely alarm clocks, but symbols of the "calling-nature" of the Christ and his apostles. As the boats gather for a blessing and then set sail for the fishing and catching, so the "called" gather to be blest by the Word and Sacraments and then sent out for further calling and catching. We too have been rescued from and for a continuation of that preaching. We are, like those boats, come in all sizes and with differing histories, but we each have our special areas of preaching, fishing, calling and being Church. Some of us preach loudly, some softly. Others preach by how they insult the ways of this world, by their simplicity of life and actions of love. Herod tried to keep Peter down in chains and the Jewish officials tried to put the clamps on Paul's mouth. The storms of the oceans try to keep the fleet in safe harbors. It is hard to keep a good "church" down when it preaches, in so many different ways, that Jesus is "the Christ, the Son of the living God." "Who do others say" that Jesus is? Some say a good luck charm, a "good old boy" prophet, an historical bother and a "buddy." Who do you say he is? Your answer is your actions; your actions are your preaching the "Good Word" and it is hard to keep the "good word" down no matter how strong the storm. At least that's what Simon says.
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