The Challenge of Peter & Paul

Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, Apostles

June 29, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, we celebrate the great Apostles Peter and Paul, first architects of the Christian faith.

Peter and Paul

From our 21st century perspective, we may be tempted today to celebrate the totality of their accomplishments – the scriptures ascribed to them, the theology traced to them, the cathedrals named for them.

But there is a deeper message given to us in today’s readings, one that challenges our practice of faith. We can access that message by asking an obvious question:

Why were Peter and Paul, simple religious leaders, persecuted, imprisoned, harassed, and eventually executed? What was the terrible threat these unarmed preachers presented to political power?

The answer:

It was their testimony to the transformative Gospel message of Jesus Christ – the Gospel of Mercy and Justice.

But Jesus’ proclamation of God’s kingdom constituted a serious challenge to the Romans who ruled Israel during his lifetime. The cheering crowds who greeted him, especially during his entry into Jerusalem, as well as his confrontation with the moneychangers in the Temple, constituted such a threat to the unjust power of empire that the rulers crucified Jesus in order to silence him. – Elizabeth Johnson, CSJ

Peter and Paul, and every committed Christian after them, bears the same holy threat to ensuing cultures of domination, violence and greed.

As Jesus, Peter, Paul and so many others down through Pope Francis show us, faith and politics always work hand in hand. The work of faith is to build a world where every person can live, and find their way to God, in dignity and peace. It is to witness to an alternative to any power that feeds on the freedom, joy and peace of another person – especially those who are poor, sick and vulnerable.

May Peter and Paul inspire us to continue the daunting task of such an apostolic faith.

Music:  They Who Do Justice – David Haas

They who do justice will live in the presence of God!
They who do justice will live in the presence of God!
Those who walk blamelessly and live their lives doing justice,
who keep the truth in their heart, and slander not with their tongue!
Who harm not another, nor take up reproach to their neighbor,
who hate the site of the wicked, but honor the people of God!
Who show no condition in sharing the gifts of their treasure,
who live not off the poor: they shall stand firm forever!

Yes, I’m Talkin’ to YOU!

Saturday of the Seventh Week of Easter 

June 8, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, our Gospel reveals a lot about the relationships and personalities among Jesus and his disciples.

John is described as “the one whom Jesus loved”, indicating that there was a unique affection shared between them. What was that like? John was younger than most of the other men. Perhaps he needed more overt direction and care from Jesus. We know from John’s later extensive contributions to scripture that he was a poet and a visionary, someone with heightened sensitivities. Perhaps John expressed his love for Jesus more openly, triggering a similar response in Jesus.

Peter, once again, appears as the questioner. Throughout the Gospels, he is always asking Jesus to explain, to define, to assure. In today’s reading, Jesus has given Peter the prime call to follow him. But Peter wants more. Looking at John, Peter wants to know, “What about him… will he follow?”

Maybe Peter is a lot like some of us, a little unsure of where we are in God’s love. Maybe he wants to know how he compares to John, the obvious “Beloved Disciple”.

Jesus doesn’t coddle Peter. He wants Peter to “man up”. Peter has immense leadership responsibilities ahead of him. He needs to rely totally on Jesus’s promise to him.

John21_22

So Jesus tells him not to worry about how others are loved and called by God. He tells Peter, “ You follow me!” – that’s all you have to be concerned about.

Everybody’s call to follow is personal and different. It comes dressed in our particular life circumstances, gifts and awarenesses. God wants Peter and God wants John. He doesn’t want clones of either.

And God wants and calls each one of us in our uniqueness. By entering deeply into our own spirit, we will find our answer to God’s call.

Teresa of Avila said this:

It is foolish to think that we will enter heaven
without entering into ourselves.

May dear, questioning Peter inspire us today to be brave, confident and complete in our own response to God’s call.

Music:  Follow Me – Ray Repp

More? A Resounding “Yes” for These Five!

Friday of the Seventh Week of Easter 

June 7, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, Jesus asks the quintessential question of Peter, “Do you love me more than these?”

Jn21_15_19

The setting is by the morning-dappled sea. Jesus has just cooked his disciples breakfast. Ordinary enough, right?

What is extraordinary is that Jesus has already died, risen from the dead, and is sitting with his buddies once again by their old fishing boats!

In other words, these disciples now know clearly what the love of God means. They have seen, firsthand, what that kind of love does to a life! Mercy, Passion, Death and Resurrection lived out in everyday human experiences.

So Jesus’s question to Peter might really be asking:

After all you’ve seen,
after all is said and done,
do you have the “more”
that it will take to follow me?

Our spiritual life is all about growing to the “more” that will let us live and love in God.

This Saturday, in our Merion chapel, four young women make their perpetual profession of vows as Sisters of Mercy. On July 13th, a fifth woman will make her final profession in the Mid-West Community.

2019 profession

We rejoice that these women have chosen to find their “more” as Sisters of Mercy. Will you join us in prayers of thanksgiving and benediction for them as they take this sacred step?

Let us too have the courage, as we pray today, to listen to Jesus ask us about our love. Let us answer sincerely, and ask for all we need to give the “more” in whatever way God asks of us.

Music: Love Like Jesus – Pawn Shop Kings (This one will wake you up!😀)

Open Your Heart’s Gate

Monday of the Fourth Week of Easter

May 13, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, our readings again visit the question, “Who belongs to family of God?”.

love like God

Peter, upon returning to Jerusalem from Joppa, faces the Jewish Christians who are only learning how to live their new faith. They don’t get it that Gentiles are invited too to this emerging faith community.

They, like many of us, find security in the categories we build into our lives. We separate those who belong and don’t belong – sometimes to assure ourselves that we belong in certain preferred categories. We decide who is OK and who is not. The Gentiles were not OK church members for the Jerusalem Christians.

Peter is very patient with these critics. Point by point, he explains how his own understanding was informed by the Holy Spirit, so that he saw clearly that Christ’s invitation was for all people.

This reading challenges us to examine our “categories”, our biases and prejudices. Who is OK in my book, and who is suspect or questionable? In my thinking, who has a “right” to certain goods, positions and privileges? Who would I not invite to my table based on my predetermined “categories”?

With Christ, there are no privileged categories. We are each the privileged child of God, universally redeemed in the blood of Christ.

As I pray with this thought today, how might my attitudes and choices be affected?

Music: We are Called – David Haas

Pour It All Out for Love

Saturday of the Third Week of Easter 

May 11, 2019

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Today, in Mercy,  Acts describes Peter in the full energy of his discipleship. The infant Church was at peace, being built up by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Peter, completely filled with this sacred power, raises a woman from the dead. He does this in the Name of Jesus to Whom he has given his entire being.

pour faith

Our Gospel describes the moment of Peter’s total commitment. Some have turned away from Jesus because of his teaching on the Eucharist. Jesus asks the Twelve if they to wish to go too.

Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go?
You have the words of eternal life.
We have come to believe
and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.

At pivotal points in our faith life, Jesus asks us the same question. May we always have the strength and insight to turn toward Christ. May we pour our hearts into the welcoming love of Jesus, just as Peter did.

Music: To Whom Shall We Go – Robin and Staci Calamaio – Father and daughter team

Do You Love Me?

Third Sunday of Easter

May 5, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, Jesus asks Peter an open-ended question, the kind that leaves us very vulnerable to the answer:

Do you love me?

Jn21_17

Wow! What if Peter says “No”, or “Sort of” or worse yet, just stares off into the distance in silence?

And the question is kind of scary for Peter too. Maybe he’s thinking, “OK, this is it. Jesus wants me to lay it all on the line. Am I ready?”.

The Gospel poses questions to each of us today as well:

  • Who and what do I really love?
  • How does my primary love drive my life choices?
  • Are there places in my life that lack love – places where prejudice, blindness, selfishness or hate have filled in the emptiness?
  • Where is God in my loves?

St. John of the Cross wrote this:

At the end of our lives we will be judged on love.
Learn therefore to love God as God wishes to be loved.

More than enough to pray on today.❤️

Music: Where Charity and Love Prevail – a lovely English translation of Ubi Caritas, written in Gregorian chant.

Cast a Merciful Shadow

Second Sunday of Easter, April 28, 2019

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Today, in Mercy,  our readings continue to show us the rising power of Christ after the Resurrection.

Acts5_15 shadow

Acts demonstrates how powerfully He lives in his disciples, and in the faith of the emerging Church.

… the people esteemed them.
Yet more than ever, believers in the Lord,
great numbers of men and women, were added to them.
Thus they even carried the sick out into the streets
and laid them on cots and mats
so that when Peter came by,
at least his shadow might fall on one or another of them.

Our Gospel recounts two Post-Resurrection appearances of Jesus where He bolsters that faith for these still fledgling followers. They were gathered in the Upper Room, doors locked and fearful. When Jesus appears, the first thing he says is, “Peace”, because that is what his little flock most needs.

In the course of the reading, we discover Thomas’s adamant doubt unless he can see and touch evidence of the Christ he once knew in the flesh. His doubt is so strong that his faith, when it comes, overwhelms him.

My Lord, and my God!

In these first sainted founders of the faith, we can find a mirror image of our own call to witness Christ. We are delegated to be his presence in the world, to cast a shadow that bears his blessing in the midst of suffering and confusion.

But in the locked room of our hearts, we may still be afraid. We may feel, like Thomas, that we were absent when the affirmation and courage were distributed!

Knowing our own weaknesses – and captured in the maze of their little dramas – we may be skeptical that Christ desires to rise in us, to preach by our lives.

What Jesus said to these very fragile witnesses, he says to us

Peace be with you.
As the Father has sent me,
so I send you.

Let us look around today in awareness of those who fall in the shadow of our faith: our children and families, our religious communities, our elders, our neighbors, our friends and co-workers. As we pass through life together, does our presence bless them with a trace of God?

As we pray today, let us place our doubts, fears, weaknesses and self-concerns into Christ’s sacred wounds. Let us leave them there in confidence as we humbly choose to be his Presence and Mercy for others by the simple, selfless choices of our lives.

Music: My Lord, My God  – Vineyard Music

Heart-struck

Easter Tuesday, April 23, 2019

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Acts2_38_heartstruck

Today, in Mercy, our readings present us with a picture of the nascent Church as it works toward understanding itself in the physical absence of Jesus.

Throughout the Gospels, we see a Christian community forming around a Leader they can see, hear and touch. Acts reveals how that community awakens to itself when Jesus is no longer materially present.

Acts shows us a Church like us. We have never seen Christ, nor heard him, nor touched him. And yet we believe, or want to believe.

In our reading today, Peter preaches with brutal honesty:

Let the whole house of Israel know for certain
that God has made him both Lord and Christ,
this Jesus whom you crucified.

Peter’s message gets through to the assembly, to the point that, when they hear it, they are “cut to the heart”.

This phrase indicates a profound conversion in the way they believed. Peter tells them that their faith, like Jesus’ life, must now become a sign of contradiction to a “corrupt generation “.

What might this powerful passage say to us?

For one thing, the reading calls us to be honest about the sincerity of our faith. Is it the core of our lives? Or is it, at best, a Sunday hobby? Does it pervade our relationships and choices, giving witness to Christ’s commission to love? Or is it a tool to judge and vilify those who differ from us?

The reading doesn’t demand that we “preach out loud”. It calls us to a much more courageous witness: 

  • to be Truth in a world of lies
  • to be Peace in violence
  • to be Justice in the face of abuse and domination
  • to be Servant rather than be served
  • to be Love for those deemed unlovable
  • in other words, to be like Jesus

And to do it all because we have been “cut to the heart” by the witness of the Cross and Resurrection.

Music: By Faith-Keith & Kristyn Getty

Power of the Keys

Friday, February 22, 2019

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Peter_keys

Today, in Mercy, we celebrate  the Feast of the Chair of Saint Peter, Apostle. It seems both fitting and painfully ironic that this feast should coincide with the Pope’s Summit on Protection of Minors in the Church. When He handed the “keys” to Peter, could Christ ever have foreseen that his beloved church would descend to this shame?

Factions in the Catholic Church argue over where to place the blame for this horror. Some point to the entitlements of clericalism. Some point to more liberal stances on sexuality. The most vocal factions use their voices to blame others rather than look to their own faults. 

But today’s Gospel suggests that none of these explanations goes to the root of the crisis.

What Christ handed Peter was POWER. Our Gospel says that this power was to be used to map the journey to heaven for the rest of us – appropriately “binding” and “loosening” the guidelines of that journey.

That’s a lot of power!

Unfortunately, the famous quote of John Dalberg-Acton, a 19th century Catholic writer, too often proves true. He said:

Power tends to corrupt.
And absolute power corrupts absolutely.

What was it that Jesus saw in Peter to give him hope for Peter’s incorruptibility?

  • Peter, who abandoned his livelihood in full devotion to the call. 
  • Peter, who tried to protect his beloved Lord from the wrath of the Pharisees
  • Peter who, defending Jesus in the Garden, cut off the ear of Malchus
  • Peter, who recognized and begged forgiveness for his weakness
  • Peter, who chose an inverted crucifixion because he deemed himself unworthy to die as his master did.

Power fueled by this kind of single-hearted devotion and humility is the true “Power of the Keys”. It suffers no shadow of greed, self-importance, domination, or lust. It is always “power for” not “power over” others.

Until our church structures foster this kind of mutual, non-exclusionary power in our leaders AND members, we have little hope of transformation.

Let us pray for true insight and courage for those gathered in Rome.

Music: (Maybe the Cardinals could sing this song in their hearts on the way to their meetings? Maybe we could sing it too sometimes?)

Lay It Down – Moxie Gibson

What About the Other Guy?

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/051918.cfm

Today, in Mercy, we walk with the Risen Jesus and his dearest disciples along the seashore.  Jesus has just cooked breakfast for the fellas.  He then tells Peter that he is to take Jesus’ place as “shepherd of the lambs and sheep”. Jesus tells Peter that he is to follow in the way of Jesus.  That’s a pretty profound command! Peter knows full well what happened to Jesus.

And dear, earthy, impulsive Peter, turns aside distractedly and notices John.  Peter says, “What about him?” You can almost see Jesus take hold of Peter’s face, turn his eyes directly into Jesus’ own eyes and say, ”Pay attention.  I’m talking to YOU – not him.”

We can love Peter because we’ve all been like him numerous times in our lives.  God is calling, or giving us a message and we distract ourselves from its power by worrying about things that are unimportant or none of our business. We start asking a million questions when there is only one answer: respond with trust.

Jesus’ final words to Peter are ones we might ponder: ”You follow me.”  The implication is that, if we do, then God will take care of the other guy – and everything else.

John 21_21

Music: Follow Me  by Casting Crowns

In this song, you will hear echoes of Jesus’ call to many people throughout the Gospel: the first disciples, the woman taken in adultery, the good thief and, perhaps, even to us.