Fr. Tom’s Desk in Fr. Carl’s Corner

Article from Parish Bulletin – The Arrow on June 24, 2018

Today, we celebrated the Solemnity of St. John the Baptist, the forerunner of Jesus. On Friday of this week, we celebrate the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, two giants of our faith.

PETER – Saint Mark ended the first half of his gospel (the gospel we have been reading in Ordinary Time) with a triumphant climax after recording the doubt, misunderstanding and the opposition of many to Jesus. Now, Peter makes his great confession of faith: “You are the Messiah.” It was one of the many glorious moments in Peter’s life beginning with the day he was called from his job as a fisherman to become a fisher of men for Jesus.

Peter was clearly the leader of the apostles, chosen by Jesus to have a special relationship with him. He was privileged to witness the Transfiguration and the raising of a dead child to life. Jesus cured his mother-in-law. He was sent by John to prepare for the last Passover. And to Peter only did Jesus say, “Blessed are you Simon, son of Jonah… and so, I say to you, you are Peter and upon this rock I will build by church and the fates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

But the Gospels prove their own trustworthiness by the unflattering details they include about Peter. He clearly had no public relations person. It is a great comfort for us ordinary mortals to know that Peter had his own human weaknesses even in the presence of Jesus. He generously gave up everything, yet he asked in childish self-regard, “What are we going to get for all of this?” He received the full force of Christ’s anger when he objected to the idea of a suffering Messiah. “Get behind me Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.” Peter is willing to accept the doctrine of Jesus of forgiveness but suggests a limit of seven times. He walks on the water in faith but sinks in doubt. He refuses to let Jesus wash his feet then wants his whole body cleansed. He swears at the Last Supper that he will never deny Jesus and then swears to a servant maid that he has never known the man. He loyally resists the first attempt to arrest Jesus by cutting off Malchus’ ear; but in the end, he runs away with the others. In the depth of his sorrow, Jesus looks on him and forgives him and Peter goes out and sheds bitter tears. The Risen Jesus told Peter to feed his lambs and his sheep.

PAUL – If the most well-known preacher today suddenly began preaching that the United States should adopt Marxism and not rely on the constitution, the angry reaction would help us understand Paul’s life when he started preaching that Christ alone can save us. He had been the most pharisaic of the Pharisees, the most legalistic of Mosaic lawyers. Now he suddenly appears to other Jews as a heretical welcomer of Gentiles, a traitor and apostate.

Paul’s central conviction was simple and absolute. Only God can save humanity. No human effort – even the most scrupulous observance of the law – can create a human good which we can bring to God as reparation for sin and payment for grace. To be saved from itself, from sin, from the devil and from death, humanity must open itself completely to the saving power of Jesus.

Paul never lost his love for his Jewish family, though he carried on a lifelong debate with them about the uselessness of the Law without Christ. He reminded the gentiles that they were grafted on the parent stock of the Jews, who were still God’s chosen people, the children of the promise.

REFLECTION – We would probably go to confession to Peter sooner than to any of the other apostles. He is, perhaps, a more striking example of the simple fact of holiness. Jesus says to us as he said, in effect, to Peter: “It is not you who have chosen me, but I who have chosen you, Peter. It is not human wisdom that makes it possible for you to believe, but my Father’s revelation.”

Paul’s experience of the Risen Jesus on the road to Damascus was the driving force that made him one of the most zealous, dynamic and courageous ambassadors for Christ the Church has ever had. But persecution, humiliation and weakness became his day-by-day cross to bear, the basis for further transformation. The dying Christ was in him; the living Christ was his life.

Father Tom Unz