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Homily for the Solemnity of Sts Peter & Paul

From Monday to Friday I was up in Leeds for a priests’ retreat led by

Sr Briege McKenna. On the Monday evening she put to us a series

of questions, one of which was, not, “Who do people say the Son of

Man is?” but rather “Who is Jesus to you?” We were also asked, “Is

Jesus the Lord of your life?” We can easily take our eyes off the ball

and not notice that things have slipped a bit. And sometimes, what

we think is acceptable, is still not enough for the Lord.


She gave the example that, some years ago, one of her relatives was

dying in Ireland. Sr Briege had been due to give a retreat, but she

asked her religious superior and received permission to cancel it and

go to see her relative instead. But before she got on the plane, she

heard Jesus telling her to cancel the flight and give the retreat. She

wrestled with this and thought that her plan was reasonable, and

appropriate. But again, Jesus asked her to cancel her plans and give

the retreat. She gave in, informed her superior and went on to give

the retreat. About three weeks later, she phoned family in Ireland to

see how they were doing. “Haven’t you heard?” she was told. After

being unresponsive, her relative had perked up and was now

speaking and had more energy again. Sr Briege went to visit her.

Then she left, got on a plane, and before the plane touched down her

relative had died. God is not outdone in generosity.


Who is Jesus for us? Is He the Lord of our lives? Do we put Him first

before everything else? He has to be, not just important to us, but

essential, like the air we breathe.


Some years ago, I came across a cartoon which had a few big strong

men in shades turning up in a van with “Carbon Dioxide Emission

Control Authority” written on the side. They would find anyone, a few

of them would hold the person down, whilst one man in shades would

securely tape the person’s mouth, and there was a host of dead

bodies on the floor. During the first lockdown, a video was made by

various lay Catholics, addressed to the bishops of England and

Wales. They were saying that, effectively, they were suffocating by

not having access to the sacraments. They were pleading with them,

saying that they were happy to sign up to help disinfect churches and

do whatever was needed in order for churches to re-open. Do we

see our faith as, not just important, but essential?


Peter had to change his life plans. He could have retired as a

fisherman. But Jesus said, “Come, follow me”, and it was to be with

no strings attached. Saul had to radically change his plans by one

hundred and eighty degrees. He had been the zealous Pharisee,

determined to get rid of Christians. Christ appeared to him on the

road to Damascus. He didn’t say: why are you persecuting the

Church? He asked him: why are you persecuting Me? Saul was so

sure of himself, but he was completely wrong, and took time

afterwards to think it all through and work out where he had gone

wrong. But then he was able to convincingly show people that Jesus

was the Christ.


Later on, he had people thinking that he wasn’t a “proper” apostle,

and that certain false apostles were more worthy to be listened to

than him. So he put them straight. This is a shortened version of his

defence:


“I have worked harder, I have been sent to prison more often, and

whipped so many time more, often almost to death. Five time I had

the thirty-nine lashes from the Jews; three times I have been beaten

with sticks; once I was stoned; three times I have been shipwrecked

and once adrift in the open sea for a night and a day. ... I have

worked and laboured, often without sleep; I have been hungry and

thirsty and often starving; I have been in the cold without clothes.” (2

Cor 11: 23-25. 27)


Being a priest in Thame is so much easier than what he went

through! But we need to ask ourselves: are we willing to lose sleep

for the Lord? Face ridicule? Miss that football match we’ve been

looking forward to because it would mean we wouldn’t be able to get

to Mass? For our faith, are we prepared to miss promotion at work?

Or that new job that would make it difficult for us to get to church at

the weekend? Is He Lord of our life? Is He, not just important, but

essential? What are we prepared to give up for the Lord? What are

we prepared to take on? Spending less on ourselves and more on

others or on charity? Forfeit some of our own time to help in the

family, the parish or the wider community? Have a bigger family,

maybe even considering adoption or fostering? Or even a celibate

vocation? God won’t be outdone in generosity. Saints Peter and

Paul literally had their whole lives changed for something far bigger

and better. St Peter could have remained a fisherman; St Paul a

tent-maker. Instead they saw the world, brought so many to Christ,

died martyrs’ deaths and still inspire and evangelise to this day. Are

we going to play our part? Who is Jesus to us?

 

Curious about exploring things further?  If you would like to ask further questions about the topics raised in these homilies (or maybe think it wasn’t explained too well!), please feel free to e-mail Fr Michael at stjoseph.thame@rcaob.org.uk

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