Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Peter and Paul, the Church, and Evangelization

Happy Solemnity of Saints Peter and PaulHappy feast day especially to the whole church in Rome, and in particular to the Bishop of Rome — who is entrusted with the Apostolic See, the "Sede" ("chair," representing the episcopal office) of Peter and his successors to this day. The Petrine "primacy" is a reference point for the unity all those who follow Christ in the Church in every time and place. It is a primacy of service and solicitude, as Jesus indicated to Peter when He said, "Feed my sheep." 

Also, Rome was the great cosmopolitan center of the ancient world, inhabited and visited by many peoples and known throughout the earth. In Rome, Saint Paul's ministry was thus extended, symbolically, to all the Gentiles, to all peoples. Peter and Paul are signs of the unity and universality of Christ's Church. Their being co-patrons of the Church of Rome indicates that  from the beginning  Jesus Christ is given to the whole world, and to every human being. Saint Paul remains the first evangelizer of the nations, commissioned by Jesus Himself. And Saint Peter  named "the Rock" by Jesus  continues through his successors to fulfill to Lord's special call to “confirm the brethren” in the faith. After 2000 years  and in spite of attacks by enemies, the destructive consequences of tragic misunderstandings, and the shocking criminal behavior of so many of the Church's own members  the "Rock" remains the foundation of an unparalleled "edifice" that endures and grows in history. 

The "gates of hell," the "jaws of death" have not prevailed against the Church, the communion of persons in Christ who strive to follow Him and radiate His love in the world, the "flock" that Jesus continues to shepherd by the gift of the Holy Spirit and the leadership of Peter's successors: the bishops of Rome who with filial affection we call "Popes" (from the term "papa," father). We love the Pope, we follow him, and we pray for him. We know well that he is a frail human being like us. In the life of the Church, we are entitled to express our opinions and concerns in a constructive manner. But ultimately we trust in God's ways; we must remain in the vital unity of the Church wherein the truth abides; we must remember — notwithstanding whatever personal weaknesses we may think we see in any particular Pope — that every Pope is called and empowered to act as "the servant of the servants of God."

We trust in the path God has given us, because God is good, and He loves us. The mystery of God's Infinite Love is the secret directing impetus that moves the world, that cares for the heart of every human person, and that illuminates the lives of His People, the Church. God has proven His love for us — for everyone — by sending His Son Jesus to save us from our sins, to redeem us and transform us in His likeness.

Like Saints Peter and Paul, we too are members of the Church established by the loving Heart of Jesus. The love of this man — this man who alone "knows the Father," who is God the Son, the Word made flesh — this man Jesus Christ, the Son of Mary, who lived in first century Palestine, who was crucified and died and conquered death forever in His resurrection: this man Jesus Christ touched the lives of Peter and Paul, changed them completely, and lit a fire in their hearts that burned so brightly that they couldn't contain it within themselves. They had to share it with everyone. God's love "compelled" them — awakening all the depths of their freedom and liberating them through joy — to be witnesses of Jesus to the whole world.

The same fire burns in the heart of every Christian, even though it is often faint, ill-tended, hidden away in an obscure corner.

We must not extinguish this fire. We must let the breath of the Holy Spirit revive it so that it bursts into a great flame.