Different Voices, One Mission

Different Voices, One Mission

June 29, 2014 | HNMWebmaster | Courage, Deacon Eddie, Discipleship, Evangelization, Faith, Homilies, Ordinary Time, St. Matthew

Solemnity of Saints Peter & Paul, Apostles
June 29, 2014 – Year A
Readings: Acts 12:1-11, Psalm 34, 2 Tm 4:6-8, 17-18, Mt 16:13-19
by Rev. Mr. Eddie Craig, Permanent Deacon

Today, the Church celebrates the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, two of the Church’s greatest saints. We commemorate their lives for the same reason that we commemorate all of the lives of the saints, to remind us of our ultimate call. Our calling is to join them, to become saints ourselves.

We look to the saints as examples of great holiness, however, sometimes it seems the Saints set a standard that is unattainable. How can any of us become a Francis of Assisi, a Teresa of Ávila, or a John Paul II? We can become discouraged and feel like we will never measure up.

Sometimes, for this reason, it can be helpful to take a look at the not so good moments in the lives of the saints. Then we are reminded that we don’t become saints on our own. God makes saints, and the two saints we honor today are prime examples.

Each was a man of tremendous faith, and each would die for their faith, but they were very different from one another, and perhaps not so different from us.

Peter was a simple fisherman – a small-town Jewish boy from Galilee. He was uneducated, full of emotion, and frequently spoke and acted without thinking things through. Although he responded to Jesus’s call, he didn’t seem to understand the message and often resisted the mission that went along with it right up to Pentecost.

And yet, this is the man that Jesus chose to lead his Church. For Peter was the one who responded to our Lord’s question: “And you, who do you say I am?” Peter declares, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.” Jesus responds, “You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church…”

Paul, unlike Peter, was not your ordinary man. He was from Tarsus, a center of culture and philosophy, and was highly educated. He was a Roman citizen, a Pharisee, and he persecuted the earliest Christians, including participating in the execution of St. Stephen, one of the first deacons of the Church.

We all know the story of his conversion on the way to Damascus, when our Lord revealed himself to Paul in a blinding flash of light. The scales were removed from Paul’s eyes when he embraced the Church, and he went on to become one of the greatest evangelists in history, bringing the faith to the Gentiles throughout the Roman empire.

Peter and Paul did not always agree. Paul’s letter to the Galatians tells us of a dispute between the two of them in Antioch. At the time, there was friction between some of the Jews that had become Christians and Gentiles who had accepted the faith. These Jewish Christians were still observing the Mosaic Law and they felt that all Christians should do the same. It seems that Peter had started hanging out with them and was ignoring the Gentile Christians. This didn’t set well with Paul and he confronted Peter. Scripture doesn’t tell us how the situation was resolved, but tradition says that Peter and Paul were later together in Rome and there they were both martyred.

Today, the Church is calling us all to a New Evangelization, to spread the Gospel, the “good news”, of Jesus Christ to everyone we meet. In some parts of the world, this means literally risking your life. The most recent example that comes to mind is the current story in the news about a Sudanese woman who was sentenced to death for refusing to renounce her Christian faith. Thankfully, she has since been released and is in the process of moving to the United States to live with her husband in safety.

We are fortunate that, in this country, we don’t have to fear for our safety, but it’s still not easy being the messenger of an unpopular truth. And being a messenger of truth is even more difficult because of the disunity that exists within the Christian Church itself. Division weakens our mission so we really shouldn’t be surprised when God’s message is not embraced. What is a non-believer supposed to think when those who bear the name “Christian” can’t agree or even get along with one another?

In our increasingly politically polarized nation, we can be quick to label, judge and dismiss our fellow Christians as liberals or conservatives. When this happens in our church, it weakens our ability to evangelize to our increasingly secularized neighbors. So how can we move past our differences and come together to serve the poor, the marginalized, the lonely, the elderly and the sick among us? How can we more effectively evangelize?

We need to look beyond our differences and discover a deeper level of unity. Christian unity, like the unity of Peter and Paul, is unity in diversity. We are not all the same, and we are not always going to agree on how to do things, but we are all – first and foremost – followers of Jesus Christ and children of God.

We need to remember what Paul said in his first letter to the Corinthians: “Let no one boast about human leaders.” (1 Corinthians 3:21) We need to look to the example of the saints and open our hearts to God. We must accept that we do not have all of the answers and that we can not make it to heaven on our own.

With God all things are possible, and through him, ordinary, different kinds of people can do extraordinary things. The path to sainthood is laid out before each one of us. Like Peter and Paul, will we choose to walk it?