Sunday, June 29, 2014

Peter, Paul, and 16 Soldiers

Readings for the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, 2014:

Saints Peter And Paul 2014

By Deacon Lawrence N. Kaas
June 29, 2014

As kind of a test: how many soldiers were assigned to guard Peter? In the acts of the apostles we are told that they laid hands on members of the Church to harm them. And under that persecution Peter was arrested and taken into custody and put in prison under the guard of four squads of four soldiers each. And as the story goes the Church is praying for Peter and so finally an angel appears to help Peter escape the chains from his wrists and was told put on his sandals and cloak, follow me said the Angel.

Now my question to you is why did it take 16 soldiers, Roman soldiers at that, to keep one Christian in custody. There is no indication that he was out to hurt anybody. Did they think that by arresting Peter, who was obvious the leader of this new band of troublemakers, they could keep control of them.

The question needs to be asked, "what made them so fearsome that they had to be imprisoned, persecuted, executed and brought under the control of the state? Well the simple answer is, they preached the gospel. The preaching of the Gospel by the Apostles and the followers of Christ was clearly coming against the dictates of a very sinful world.

Sometimes we have to ask ourselves has anything really changed these last 2000 years. I declare to you without hesitation that unless we realize that we are in a war against evil in the world and this war can only be won if we turn our hearts and our minds to Christ, we will not win. Remember Christ died on the cross to overcome death and sin in our world.

So now another question: why does God allow evil to exist in the world. Maybe the simplest answer I've ever heard to that question was posed in the movie entitled, Oh God, when God, played by George Burns was asked that question, by Denver, he gave the answer, "I don't allow evil, you do." We are taught a more philosophical answer to that question, that God allows evil in the extent that God can use it for good. Yeah I know, it doesn't make a lot of sense to me either but when it comes to the mind of God we are all left in awe!

We can reflect along with Peter that the Lord sent his angel and rescued him from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people had been expecting. The new Evangelist is convinced that if the risen Jesus can do it once, the risen Jesus can do it again.

The other Saint in our Solemnity today is St. Paul. As the letter of St. Paul to Timothy reminds us that he must have been anticipating that the time, that, he calls his departure is at hand. He says I have competed well; I finished the race; I have kept the faith. How often have we heard father Statz say of himself and of his ministry that if only he can finish the race and keep the faith. As I reminded you and him last Wednesday's 5:30 Mass, as Paul reminds us in his letter, that a crown of righteousness awaits. Paul reminds us in his letters that being an Apostle for Christ is not paved with palm branches and flowers, but is paved with thorns, and thistles, rocks and potholes, also in our day rough paved and gravel roads.

So the question arises again what has changed in 2000 years? One thing we can depend on absolutely is that the Church was persecuted in the past and will be persecuted today and in the future. For the Church is Christ's active body in the world. So as they Crucified Christ on the cross the Church will be Crucified in the politics of our world. WHY? Because, the church being the body of Christ can do nothing else but engage in this war on the side of Christ. Our opponents in this war can get very vicious and mean at times but remember they follow no rules. But when there are, no rules, engagement comes to light people of goodwill recognize it and want more and more to have what we have. So sometimes, when it seems like rules and more rules control our lives we nevertheless with patience and Love for Christ and his Church, we come to realize the peace and security we have in this, One Holy, Catholic, Apostolic Church. You might reflect on this too, from time to time, what a great blessing it is to belong to a Church that recognizes that we are all sinners and yet provides a means to restore our Baptismal Purity. This is no small matter for there is no greater means to Salvation, Eternal Life, then the Sacraments of this Church.

So we can reflect on the lives of Peter and Paul and how sin affected them personally. And finally how they were martyred for their faith and yet are remembered as great Saints of the church. I would want all of us to understand that sin is never, never, the last word. The church looks at sin, as a doctor looks at an ill patient, someone to be healed and brought back to perfect life, in Christ. Do I dare ask, "what are you waiting for?" Sin, can devastate the soul, as cancer devastates the body. How does this all work?

The closing words of our gospel today are great comfort to us individually and as a Church community because it says, "I will give you the Keys to the Kingdom of Heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in Heaven, whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in Heaven." This authority has been given our priests in the Sacrament of Confession! Because this homily is attempting to deal with the sins of the world I beg you to not add your sins as ammunition to the evils of the world.

You all be Good, be Holy, Preach the Gospel always and if necessary use words.

'Thank you' to Deacon Kaas, for letting me post his reflection here.

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