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Sunday, June 28, 2020

Reflection 2020-06-29 Solemnity of St Peter and St Paul

Acts 12:1-11; Psalm 34; 2 Timothy 4:6-8, 17-18; Matthew 16:13-19
Prison of Sts Peter and Paul
Prison of Sts Peter and Paul (Mamertine Prison)
St Peter and St Paul have been honored since the early Church. Proof of this is early Christians make pilgrimages to the sites where they are buried and imprisoned. The prison where they were kept has also been venerated throughout centuries. This prison is now a museum and if you have a chance to go to Rome, make sure you visit the Mamertine Prison. The cell at the bottom of the prison was damp and dark. As I was there, I read the Second Reading which Paul wrote while he was in that prison: Beloved, I am already being poured out as a libation, and the time of my departures has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. From now on there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge will give me on that day. This experience gives a glimpse of the person of St Paul, that despite the hardships he had suffered, he was still defiant, not giving in to the sufferings he was experiencing and even his eventual execution. Which makes one wonder, what gave Paul this defiant hope in what is in store for him?
It is the same hope Peter had when he led the early Church and gave up his life for his Lord. The First Reading tells us after killing James with the sword, Herod arrested Peter. While Peter was kept in prison, the Church prayed fervently to God for him. This gives us two proofs that Peter was the head of the Church at that time. Herod knew this movement will die once the leader was immobilized, and the Church specifically prayed for Peter while he was in prison. This was in fulfillment of what Jesus told Peter in the Gospel: that Peter is the Rock on which Christ will build his Church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. Jesus gives Peter the keys to the kingdom of heaven so he has the authority to bind and loose on earth, which will be upheld in heaven.
Paul writes in his letter to the Galatians of a conflict he had with Peter. But despite that, these two men did not allow that conflict to hinder the preaching of the Gospel. Paul said Peter was assigned to preach to Jews and he was assigned to preach to Gentiles. Both had their own mission and both did their missions faithfully, giving their lives to the end. Tradition tells us Peter died in Rome by being crucified upside down.
These two Apostles show us, God can use imperfect people for his purpose. Paul persecuted Christians early on in his life. Peter had a tendency to speak before thinking and at the moment when Jesus needed it most, Peter betrayed Jesus. Yet, what they did after they repented shows God can use us for his glory, even if we have a sinful past.
God created us for a purpose and what we have is sufficient for him and he can use us just as we are! So, you say, you have done a lot of bad things? Come to Jesus, repent and sin no more. You say, I am not smart enough, or I do not have the proper education? Then trust God, because trust in the Lord is fear of the Lord, and Scripture says, the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. You say, I am not wise enough. James tells us those who lack wisdom should ask for it. This is the only gift of the Spirit that we are guaranteed to receive when we ask. You say, I am sick and weak. Do not be afraid. God says his power is perfected in our weakness.
Peter and Paul became great Apostles and the foundations of the Church, not because they were perfect. They became great Apostles because they accepted their weaknesses and allowed God to transform these weaknesses and use them for his glory. They gave their lives for the glory of God and God did great things for them and through them.
Is God calling you to himself. Do not be afraid. Come as you are and let God fill what is lacking. Is God calling you to serve him in a special way? Do not be afraid, you do not need to be perfect. You just need to allow God to transform your weakness and use it for his glory. Are you afraid of where God is leading you? The Psalm today tells us: I sought the Lord, and he answered me, and delivered me from all my fears… The Angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them. Do not be afraid, take that step, in trust. O taste and see that the Lord is good, blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.
Lord, I know you call me now, just as I am. I know you wait for me to respond. Here I am, with all my faults. Yet, I trust you will use me despite my faults. I come to you, confident, because I do not boast in myself, my accomplishments, my skills, but I boast in you, I sought you and you will answer and deliver me from my fears. Jesus, I trust you. St Peter and St Paul, pray for us, that we may trust Jesus.

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