Saints Peter and Paul


Starter Story:
The year was 1770, and in a small Italian church, two altar boys prepared for Benediction. Annibale Della Genga and Francesco Castiglioni entered the sacristy, put on their albs, and grabbed the heavy brass candlesticks. And then they began to bicker.
Arguing over who would stand on the priest’s right for the procession, their quibble escalated into a shouting match. Alarmed parishioners turned their heads to the back of the church to see the commotion, and that’s when it happened:
Castiglioni cracked Della Genga over the head with his candlestick.
Blood dripped out of Della Genga’s head, and both boys began shoving each other. Shocked parishioners screamed, “Throw them out! Throw them out!” So the embarrassed priest grabbed the boys, led them to the door, and tossed them out of the church.

Now fast-forward several decades to 1825. Half a million people gathered in Rome for the great Jubilee celebration. The Jubilee occurred every 25 years, and its grand climax was the opening of the Holy Door at St. Peter’s Basilica. Traditionally, the Pope would knock on the door three times with a large silver hammer and sing, “Open unto me the gates of justice!” On the third knock, the door would swing open, and the Pope would lead his people through. The symbolism was rich: pilgrims from all over the world coming back home to the Church, following their leader through the great porta fidei, the “door of faith.”
So this Jubilee year, in front of thousands of pilgrims, Cardinal Della Genga made his way to the door. It was fifty-five years after the candlestick incident. Only he was no longer Cardinal Della Genga. He was Pope Leo XII. And as he neared the door, he turned to the Cardinal beside him—Cardinal Castiglioni—and said, “Let me have the hammer.”
With a sly grin, Castiglioni replied, “Just like I gave you the candlestick?”
Amazingly, four years later Castiglioni succeeded his friend and became pope himself, taking the name Pius VIII.
Now if you told any of those pew-sitters back in 1770 that they had two future-popes in the back of their church, they’d laugh you out of the building: “Those two boys? The ones shoving and whacking each other with candles? You’ve got to be kidding me.”
Most of us have a similar reaction whenever we think about evangelization: “What, me?! You can’t be serious. How could I be an evangelist? I hardly know my faith. I’m too timid. I’m too awkward. I don’t like controversy. I’m the last person that should be evangelizing.” Compounding these feelings of fear and inadequacy is the problem that many of us have little idea what evangelization is, or how to do it.

(Greg Willits)
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General Tito And Archbishop Fulton Sheen Differences

Careless words can hurt people. Not only can they influence a person's self worth, they can actually shape that person's destiny. If you doubt that, consider these two stories.
1. One day in a small country church, an altar boy accidentally dropped the communion wine. The officiating priest slapped him and shouted, "Leave, and don't come back!" That boy became General Tito, the brutal communist dictator who ruled the people of Yugoslavia for years.
General Tito

2. In a big city cathedral, another alter boy dropped the communion wine. His bishop turned to him and whispered reassuringly, "It is ok, someday you will be a great priest." That boy became Archbishop Fulton Sheen, whose sermon touched the heart of millions on national television.
Fulton Sheen

Your words either build people up or tear them down. Here's a truth we don't like to acknowledge; what comes out of our lips reveal what is our heart, and our 'I didn't mean it' doesn't change that or undo the damage. Eugene Peterson Wright once said, 'Every day i put love on the line. There is nothing I am less good at. I'm far better in competition than love; far better at responding to my instinct to get ahead, than at figuring out how to love another. I am schooled and trained in getting my own way. And yet i decide everyday to set aside what i do best and attempt to do what I do very clumsily, open myself to the frustration and failure of loving, daring to believe that failing in love is better than succeeding in pride."

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1.     by Paddy Duffy 

Today is the Solemnity of Ss Peter and Paul, twin founders of the Church in Rome. It is the day traditionally considered in pagan Rome to be its foundation day by Romulus. Although Paul had occasion to stand up to Peter because he would not eat with Gentiles – ‘I opposed him to his face, since he was manifestly in the wrong’ (Gal 2:11) - they are both jointly honoured on this feast. It is a day when the Pope confers the pallium on all the archbishops whom he has appointed in the previous year. In the image Peter and Paul are shown exchanging a warm embrace – the haspasmos. The conversion of St Paul is celebrated on 25th January. Here Patrick Duffy looks at what the New Testament tells us about St Peter. 

A providential irony in Jesus’s choice of leader?
 Simon was a bit of a bungler. Is there then an irony that is providential in Jesus’ choice of him as the leader of the campaign and of the community he put together to bring his salvation to the world. Simon’s mission is implied in the new name that Jesus gave him, Cephas or Peter, meaning Rock. 

Top of the lists
The name, Simon who is called Peter’, appears at the top of every list of the apostles in the gospels. When Jesus asked, ‘Who do you say I am?’ Simon made the supreme confession of faith  – ‘You are the Christ,’ he said, ‘the son of the living God’ (Mt 10:2-4 and 16:15-16). 

Impulsive and enthusiastic
 In character, Peter is impulsive and enthusiastic – wanting to make three tents at the transfiguration on the mountain (Mt 17:4), attempting to walk on the waters and then has to be rescued by Jesus when he begins to sink (Mt 14:29-31). He denied Jesus three times, as Jesus had foretold he would (Mt 26:69-75). 

Reinstated and mission
Jesus, however, takes special care to reinstate Peter as leader after the resurrection, asking three times “Do you love me?” and telling him, “Feed my sheep” (Jn 21:15-17).

The mysterious and providential character of Peter’s (and perhaps everybody’s) life comes out in the words Jesus then spoke according to John’s gospel: 

I tell you most solemnly,
 when you were young
 you put on your own belt
 and walked where you liked;
 but when you grow old,
 you will stretch out your hands
 and somebody else will put a belt round you
 and take you where you would rather not go (Jn 21:18). 

Pentecost, imprisonment and escape
At Pentecost Peter surprised the people in Jerusalem with the power of the words he spoke about Jesus’s resurrection (Acts 2:40-41). Later he was imprisoned by Herod Agrippa, but had a miraculous escape (Acts 12:1-11).

Opposed by Paul
At Antioch, however, Peter gave into racial prejudice, declining to eat with the pagans, but Paul boldly corrected him. He tells us: ‘I opposed him to his face, since he was manifestly in the wrong’ (Gal 2:11). 

Death and memory
 Tradition has it that Peter came to Rome and was martyred under Nero around 64 AD. The emperor Constantine built a basilica to house his tomb. The present (16th century) basilica is now on that same site. Twentieth century excavations discovered the tomb of Peter, though it is impossible to say the bones are his. 

A Petrine ministry

Today in ecumenical circles there is a growing sense that the seminal text of Matt 16:13-19 where Jesus gives Peter authority to bind and loose can and should be interpreted in the sense of a Petrine ministry of leadership and stability in the Church. Peter is the chief steward in the palace of the kingdom with a role of rescuing from death’s dominion. If the Catholic Church could find a less triumphalistic and more humble word than ‘infallibility’ as well a more collegial way of exercising its Petrine ministry, would it then find a more universal acceptance? 

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2.     Fr John Murray PP profiles St Peter here. 

Peter is a very attractive figure since he shared our weakness, but after the resurrection he became the one to strengthen his brothers.  

Tu es Petrus - ‘You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church.’ The words in Latin stand five feet high in the lofty vaults of St Peter’s Basilica in Rome. The neck and eye must swivel almost vertically to pick out the scripture verses in golden lettering that speak about Peter’s role within the Church, ‘Feed my lambs, feed my sheep’ and about his humanity, ‘and when you have recovered you shall strengthen your brothers’ (Lk 22:32). Peter today (2014) is our present Holy Father, Pope Francis. 

Moved to tears
Twenty one years ago, at Galway, the hairs on my neck stood up and tears filled my eyes as ‘Peter’ came to Ireland’s shores for the first time in two thousand years. I’m sure I was not the only person so moved on that day. As the helicopter emerged from the early morning September mist we all could see a speck of white at a window above us. Peter’s 264th successor had come to our land. 

In the intervening years we have come to know better what sort of man this particular ‘Peter’ is. 

Saints and sinners
Who is ‘Peter’? Through the centuries the papacy has developed and changed. Sadly the post has been held by a few rogues, quite a few men who were more suited to the world of politics than the realm of the spirit, but also, thankfully, by many saints. 

In the early formative years of the Church when other centres of faith occasionally fell into heresy, Rome and its bishop never did. Through two millennia that consistency has continued despite sometimes the behaviour of the see’s incumbent. The words of Jesus to Peter have indeed come true: ‘And when you have recovered you will strengthen your brothers’.

Peter is indeed the ‘rock’ on which the Church is built. Yet what is that rock except that profession of faith which each of us is called to make in Jesus, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ While the other disciples gave the opinions of others about the identity of Jesus, Peter stepped out in faith and proclaimed who Jesus was.

Best friend
One year Pope John Paul II, was visiting a parish in Rome as part of his duties as Bishop of that city.  After celebrating Mass with the parishioners he met with the youth of the parish in a time of dialogue and exchange. The young people had the opportunity to ask the Pope questions many of us would love to ask - about his growing up in Poland: Did he have a girlfriend? What football team he supported? And so on. One young man asked him: ‘Who is your best friend?’ Are we surprised that his answer was ‘Jesus Christ’? ‘ 

 St Simon Peter - The Rock 

Quo vadis?
 I began these thoughts with the Latin phrase Tu es Petrus. I will end with another, Quo vadis? (‘Where are you going?’).  The legend is that about 64 AD Peter was persuaded by the Christian community in Rome to flee the savage persecution unleashed by the mad Emperor, Nero. ‘It would not be good if our leaders were captured,’ they argued. On the road to Naples and the South, the famous Via Appia, a few miles south of the city Peter met a man. ‘Quo vadis?’ he asked him. ‘I am going to Rome to be crucified,’ was the reply. Peter knew it was the Lord and turned on his heel and walked back to the city to share the fate of his brothers and sisters. 

Peter’s tomb
But according to tradition and recent archaeological research, Peter, a victim too of Nero’s madness, rests beneath the high altar in the Basilica of St Peter which bears his name.
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3.     Rev. Ted Martin: 

Purpose: Jesus Christ came into this world to bear witness to the Truth. The Truth that God is love, and that he so loved the world that he sent his only begotten Son, so that all might be saved through faith and charity in his name. This week’s readings teach us:  1. The miraculous power of the Church’s intercession; 2. The martyrological character of Christian life; and, 3. The divine foundation of the Church on the confession of St. Peter. 

The early Church’s most manifest characteristic was her suffering before the world in the form of martyrdom. The first reading recounts the martyrdom of the first bishop of Jerusalem, St. James. We hear that this act of Herod was pleasing to the Jews, and so Peter was imprisoned with the expectation of his own martyrdom (Acts 12:11).  Why were these early Christians and, particularly, the Apostles, being martyred?  Quite simply, they were confessors of the Truth. “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” Jesus asks the disciples. It is Peter who replies, not with human knowledge, but by the revelation of the Father: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God”(Matthew 16:16). Martyrdom—from the Greek: μαρτυριον—literally translates as “witness” They were witnesses (martyrs) to the Truth before they were martyrs with their blood. Jesus boldly proclaims to Pilate: “For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness (μαρτυρεω) to the truth”(John 18:37). Jesus was born ,and so came into the world, to be a martyr for the Truth; God is love. Christians, who are by their very own admission and name “other Christs,” continue to bear this reality to the world. A Christian who isn’t a daily witness (martyr) in his actions and words to the wonders of God’s love is, in fact, failing in his charge of discipleship. The defining characteristic of Christian discipleship and sonship is being a witness (martyr) to divine love. Only when we can say with St. Paul, “I am already being poured out like a libation” (2 Tim 4:6). can we really fulfill that for which we were baptized: self-sacrificing love as a participation in, and witness to, the love of Jesus Christ. All Christians are called daily to accept the gift of martyrdom: white or red. White for those who endure patiently the little deaths of suffering in fidelity to Christ to the end, without the privilege of being killed “for the sake of the name,”and red for those whom Jesus calls to hand over their bodies rather than betray the truth.

It is in martyrdom that the Church finds her only foundation. It is the martyrdom of Jesus Christ, from whose seeping side wound the mystery of Mother Church flows, and it is the blood of the martyrs throughout the centuries which sows the seed of God’s word throughout the world on the soft, blood-soaked ground, waiting to bear fruit for eternal life. Jesus founded only one Church, as he has only one body: “You are Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it”(Matthew 16:18). That the Church is beaten by the waves and winds of the world, and ashamed at the sins of her members, is a truth we can never deny. Nevertheless, and even more importantly, our peace is that this little bark is Christ’s, and it can never be separated from his love. “The gates of hell will not prevail against it”(Matthew 16:18). Christ calls us to rejoice in our Catholic faith, and to be proud of this faith, not proud as those belonging to some sort of clique that we are lucky enough to take part in, but rather as a family whose brothers and sisters have, in the most noble and heroic manner, shed their blood in witness to God’s love, and truth, assuring us of God’s triumph over the world, the flesh, and the devil (I John 2:16). It is the band of martyrs shedding their blood in great numbers today, as in the past, that gives us hope. With great confidence, we place our lives in this prayer and communion of the Church, which liberated St. Peter.

We can trust in the Church’s prayer for all things. We must honestly ask ourselves: What prison have I locked myself into by my sins? Has an addiction or a betrayal put me, like Peter, in “double chains”(Acts 12:6), such that I feel hopelessness or despair? It is precisely in these moments, when we must trust all the more in the power of the Church’s prayer through the Sacraments—especially the Holy Eucharist and Penance—as well as in the intercession of the saints, and particularly, that of our Blessed Mother, whose heart was pierced by a sword (Luke 2:35). Let us trust with all our being in the great power of the Church’s martyrs to intercede for us, and the power of the Holy Eucharist and Penance to free us. Sts. Peter and Paul, pray for us!  

4.     Connections: 

Today the Church celebrates the great feast of its “founding fathers,” Peter and Paul.  This is one of the principal holy days of the liturgical years that take precedence when it falls on a Sunday.  The readings for the Vigil and Day all recount important events in the lives and ministries of these two great apostles.  While the Gospel readings naturally focus on Peter, they speak to Christ’s great call to all baptized men and women of every age to the vocation of apostle. 

MASS OF THE VIGIL:

The WORD:

The Gospel for the Vigil Mass takes place at the Sea of Tiberias after the resurrection.  Unrecognized, Jesus appears on shore as Peter and the apostles are fishing.  After he instructs them to cast their net on the starboard side, their nets break under the weight of the catch.  Only then do the apostles recognize the Risen Jesus in their midst.

After the meal, sitting by the fire he has made, Jesus invites Peter to atone for his triple denial of Jesus by the fire in the high priest's courtyard by declaring three times his complete love and unfailing devotion to him.  It is a moment of re-creation and resurrection for Peter. 

THEMES:

In calling Peter -- and us -- to the work of "apostleship," Christ calls us to bring the miracle of his resurrection into our lives through our commitment to seeking justice, peace and reconciliation in all things.  In looking beyond the failure of Peter and the disciples who abandoned him on Good Friday, the Risen Jesus renews his call to them to become “fishers” of humanity. 

As witnesses of the Resurrection, we, too, are called to bring the life of the Risen One to all things: to seek re-birth rather than condemnation, to rejoice in reconciliation rather than to moralize on the sins of the past, to accept one another as brothers and sisters rather than to isolate and dominate enemies, to work for what is best for all rather than for what is better for us. 

MASS DURING THE DAY:

The WORD:

In Matthew's Gospel, Peter’s confession of faith is a turning point in the ministry of Jesus.  Jesus will now concentrate on preparing his disciples to take on the teaching ministry and leadership of the Church he will establish.

The scene of today's Gospel, Caesarea Philippi, was the site of temples dedicated to no less than 14 different pagan gods, ranging from the Syrian god Baal to Pan, the Greek god of nature.  In the middle of the city was a great white temple built by Herod and dedicated to the “divinity” of Caesar (hence the name of the city).  In the midst of this marketplace of gods and temples, Jesus first indicates his plans and hopes for his church.

Jesus “sets up” Peter’s declaration of faith by asking his disciples what people are saying about him.  Many believe that Jesus is the reincarnation of John the Baptizer or the long-awaited return of the prophet Elijah or Jeremiah (Malachi 4: 5-6), whose return would signal the restoration of Israel.  Simon Peter, however, has been given the gift of faith (“no mere man has revealed this to you”) and unequivocally states that Jesus is the Messiah.

Jesus blesses Simon with the new name of “rock” (Kepha in Aramaic, Petros in Greek), the foundation for Jesus' new Church.  Peter is entrusted with the keys of the kingdom of heaven and the mission to bring sins to consciousness and to proclaim to sinners the love and forgiveness of God. 

THEMES:

The question Jesus asks Peter and his disciples is asked of us every minute of every day.  Every decision we make is ultimately a response to the question, Who do you say I am?  Our love for family and friends, our dedication to the cause of justice, our commitment to the highest moral and ethical standards, our taking the first step toward reconciliation and forgiveness, our simplest acts of kindness and charity declare most accurately and effectively our belief in the Gospel Jesus as the Messiah and Redeemer.

In baptism we become, like Peter and Paul, apostles — “one who is sent forth” to proclaim the Risen Christ’s Gospel of compassion, generosity, reconciliation and peace.  In whatever bread we can offer, in whatever peace we can extend, in whatever brokenness we can mend, may we continue the work begun by our ancestors in the faith: to realize the kingdom of God here and now. 

Peter is the first of the disciples to grasp the divinity of Christ.  On the faith of Peter “the rock” Christ establishes his Church.  Peter becomes, then, the first stone in the foundation of the Church.  We who are baptized into the faith handed down to us by Peter and the apostles become stones in this “edifice of Spirit”; the faith we live and the hope we cherish in the empty tomb of Easter are the foundation of the Church of the Risen One.

Christ entrusts the “keys of the kingdom” to Peter and his Church the Risen One’s Gospel compassion and justice, healing and hope to all.  That Gospel has been handed on by that first generation of disciples to the next generation and to the next and to the next . . . and now to us.  By our own quiet, simple, but powerful expressions of compassion and love for others we reveal the kingdom of God in our midst; we “open” up the hope of God’s compassion and forgiveness in this time and place. 

5.     Andrew Greeley 

Background:
Tax collectors were viewed by devout Jews as traitors because they served the Roman empire.  Since most Jews would not tolerate them, only sinners would associate with them.   

These days we might compare them to the Mob or drug lords. They were very unsavory people. Many people were shocked that Jesus would be seen at the same table with them.  When he rebuked the critics he also rebuked all the pious critics down through the ages.

Story:
Once upon a time there was this politician who was a good family man and a devout Catholic. He went to Communion every Sunday and contributed to the support of his pastor (what more could be asked).  

Then he was asked to march in the annual gay pride parade. He figured that gay men and women were entitled to respect as human beings. No one seemed bothered about that, not even the pastor of the parish where most of the gays lived. However, a new bishop came to town. He sent word to the pastor of the parish where the politician lived to rebuke the politician.  

The pastor didn’t want to do it. The bishop said tell him if he doesn’t stop we’ll ban him from the sacraments and oppose him in the next election. He can’t be a good Catholic and support homosexuals. So the pastor passed on the word. They are citizens just like everyone else, the politician replied. I don’t necessarily approve of their life style, but they have the right to be proud like everyone else.  

The bishop backed down. 

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ILLUSTRATIONS: 

God chooses ordinary people: Sinners who will become saints in order to understand other sinners and uplift them. Credit to the stories goes to Father Tony Kadavil: 

1.              "I decided long ago that there are no strangers in my world”: 

One of my favourite authors today is a professor at Loyola University in Chicago. His name is Father John Powell. In addition to being a best-selling writer, he is also a highly popular lecturer, teacher, and counsellor. In his book, entitled, Through The Eyes of Faith, he tells about his prison ministry. About once a month, he visits a prisoner in the state penitentiary. He describes how difficult that is for him personally... the atmosphere is dismal, dark, depressing... and charged with suspicion. However, on one occasion, Father Powell said he had an enlightening and inspiring experience in that stern and somber prison environment. An elderly woman was standing beside him as they moved through the visitor line. Together, they went through numerous security checkpoints. They were required to produce identification; they were required to pass through metal detectors; they were led by heavily armed guards through countless doors made of strong steel bars. And through it all, John Powell said he could not help but notice how this sweet, dear woman was smiling warmly toward everyone, waving tenderly to the guards and calling many of them by name, and greeting everyone in a kind and loving way. John Powell was fascinated with her. She was absolutely radiant. She was a ray of sunshine and a breath of fresh air in that sullen place. Suddenly, John Powell said to her, "Gee, I'll bet you bring a lot of love into this world with your smiling face and words." "Father," she replied, "I decided long ago that there are no strangers in my world. Only brothers and sisters. Some of them I haven't met yet." Reflecting on that experience, John Powell wrote this remarkable paragraph. Listen closely. He said: "That lady drew out of me a deep and warm reaction of love. And gradually I came to realize that people are not one thing, good or bad, but many things. In every human being there is warmth, love, affection, but there is also hurt, anger, weakness. We stimulate or draw out of them one or the other. It all depends upon our approach, and our approach depends upon our attitude." And then Father Powell writes these concluding words: "This was the genius of Jesus. He took people where they were and loved them into life. This is precisely what Jesus did for ... those whose lives He touched. He was a living portrait of love in action. And the caption under the portrait reads: Please love one another as I have loved you. Yes... this was the genius of Jesus. He took people where they were and loved them into life." [See John Powell, Through the Eyes of Faith (Allen, Texas: Tabor Publishing, 1992), pp. 60-61.] This is precisely what we see Jesus doing here in this dramatic passage in Mark 5. He is loving needy and hurting people into life. This passage is a fascinating one because here we have a story within a story. (akadavil@gmail.com) 

2.              Christians are called to be compassionate, “wounded healers.”  

Perhaps Henri Nouwen, the Catholic theologian, has said this better than anyone else. The author of many books, Nouwen speaks of Christians as "wounded healers" who have compassion.  Compassion is not pity. Pity lets us stay at a distance. It is condescending. Compassion is not sympathy. Sympathy is for superiors over inferiors. Compassion is not charity. Charity is for the rich to continue in their status over the poor. Compassion is born of God. It means entering into the other person's problems. It means taking on the burdens of the other. It means standing in the other person's shoes. It is the opposite of professionalism. It is the humanizing way to deal with people. "Just as bread without love can bring war instead of peace, professionalism without compassion will turn forgiveness into a gimmick."  

3.              Jesus Christ the leader and healer:  

There was a television program hosted by Barbara Walters sometime back, on which she interviewed three celebrities: Johnny Carson, Johnny Cash, and Walter Cronkite. According to one viewer, Johnny Carson came across as the typical jaded playboy hedonist. Everything he said telegraphed the fact that he was living for pleasure, but, having tried everything and been everywhere he was fed up with the whole thing. Walter Cronkite was the suave humanist, the worldly philosopher. Now retired and wealthy, he was enjoying life as best he could. He was looking at life rather philosophically, but all he really was saying was, "That's the way it is!" Johnny Cash, on the other hand, admitted his background of alcoholism and drug addiction and the fact that he had virtually destroyed a marriage and wrecked his life. But he openly said he had found Jesus. There was peace in his eyes and contentment in his voice. He spoke of a hope for the future which neither of the others had. http://www.pbc.org/dp/stedman/john/3848.html). No doctor could have healed Johnny Cash. Only Christ could do that. Only Christ can heal a broken marriage. Only Christ can heal broken relationships within a family. Only Christ can give us hope when everyone else is telling us that there is no hope to be found. Only Christ can deliver us from sin. Only Christ can take the broken pieces in our lives and put together apostles, disciples and healers of the world. 

4.              Shakespeare and Jesus.  

It was the 19th century British essayist Mr. Charles Lamb who moved the 17th century playwright William Shakespeare from his undeserved obscurity to the limelight of fame. Charles Lamb was once involved in a discussion of the question, who is the greatest literary genius of all time? Two names finally emerged: William Shakespeare and Jesus of Nazareth. Lamb put an end to the debate when he said: “I’ll tell you the difference between these two men. If Shakespeare walked into this room right now, we would all rise to greet him, but if Christ came in, we would all fall down and worship.” There is the essential difference between the Man from Nazareth and all other great people you can think of. Jesus Christ is God and all others, no matter what their deeds, are but fools strutting on the stage for a brief time and then exiting. Today’s gospel describes who Jesus really is and what the unique conditions for Christian discipleship.

5.      The Witness Of History:  

In 1896, after fifteen centuries, Athens renewed the Olympic Games, thus fulfilling the dream of Baron Pierre de Coubertin of France. You can imagine how proud the Greeks were to host the first modern Olympics. You can also imagine how disappointed they were at their athletes' lack of success in event after event. The last competition was the marathon. Greece's entrant was named Louis, a shepherd without competitive background. He'd trained alone in the hills near his flock. When the race started, Louis was far back in the pack of marathoners. But as the miles passed he moved up steadily. One by one the leaders began to falter. The Frenchman fell in agony. The hero from the United States had to quit the race. Soon, word reached the stadium that a lone runner was approaching the arena, and the emblem of Greece was on his chest! As the excitement grew, Prince George of Greece hurried to the stadium entrance where he met Louis and ran with him to the finish line. In this sports tale we have something of the history of the human race. Most historical figures make their impact, achieve a measure of fame and have books written about them, but as the years go by they begin to fade. With Jesus Christ, however, one finds quite the opposite phenomena! Christ started from way back in the pack. He was born in relative obscurity, never had many followers, wrote no books. He died young, was buried in a borrowed grave, and you'd think he'd be quickly forgotten. But, no! His reputation has grown so that today he is worshiped on every continent and has more followers than ever before. Sixteen times has his picture been on the cover of Time magazine, and his sayings have been translated into more than 200 languages. Consider: Socrates taught for forty years, Plato for fifty, and Aristotle, forty. Jesus Christ only taught for three years. Yet which has influenced the world more, one hundred thirty years of classical thought or three years of Christ's? In the Library of Congress there are 1,172 reference books on William Shakespeare, 1,752 on George Washington, 2,319 on Abe Lincoln, and 5,152 on Jesus Christ. Perhaps H. G. Wells best summed up the runaway difference in interest. "Christ," he wrote, "is the most unique person of history. No man can write a history of the human race without giving first and foremost place to the penniless teacher of Nazareth." From poverty and obscurity to teacher to death on the cross, to ascended Lord - Jesus Christ is the growing figure of history. He is unique, for while all others decrease, he increases - until, as the Bible predicts, "To him every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord." Today’s gospel reveals his true identity and describes what one must do to follow him. 

6.     Who do you say that I am?”  

On Sunday morning a man showed up at church with both of his ears terribly blistered. So his pastor asked, "What happened to you Jim?" Jim said: "I was lying on the couch watching a ball game on TV while my wife was ironing nearby. I was totally engrossed in the game when she went out, leaving the iron near the phone. The phone rang, and keeping my eyes on the TV, I grabbed the hot iron and put it to my ear." "How dreadful," gasped the pastor. "But how did the other ear get burned?" "Well, you see, I'd no sooner hung up, the guy called back!" He just didn't get it. Lots of folks never get it and never understand how life really works, even at the simplest levels. That's why Jesus is pressing his followers — and us with a challenging question in today’s gospel: “Who do you say that I am?” (Msgr. Dennis Clarke)

7.     The Catholic general knowledge about the Bible and the Messiah:

A Sunday school teacher was telling the students of how the walls of Jericho came down amazingly by the blowing of trumpets and shouts of the people. Observing that Johnny was day-dreaming, the teacher asked him: “Johnny who knocked down the walls of Jericho?” Johnny started shouting furiously, "I didn't do it, I didn't do it!, and he quit the class in protest. That evening the teacher met his parents in the park and spoke to Johnny’s mother. She told her the story of what happened in the class and about Johnny’s unreasonable outburst in the class. His mother said, "If my son said he didn't do it, then he didn't do it! I trained him not to tell lies.” The perplexed teacher asked Johnny’s mother if she could speak to the boy's father. When she explained the incident to him he said: "Let's not fuss about this. Just tell me how much it will cost to repair the walls and I'll write a check." 

8.     What happens when sermons become sleeping pills:  

"I hope you didn't take it personally, Father," an embarrassed woman said to her pastor after the Mass, "that my husband walked out during your homily." "I did find it rather disconcerting," the preacher replied. "It's not a reflection on you, Father," she insisted. "Ralph has been walking in his sleep ever since he was a child." 

9.     What does Jesus mean to us?  

Founder of a religion like Buddha and Confucius? Revolutionary Jewish reformer? One of the great teachers? Son of God and personal savior? This can perhaps be broken down into other questions: "How do I really see Jesus? Is Jesus a living experience for me, walking with me, loving me, forgiving me, helping me and transforming my life and outlook? What difference does Jesus make in my life? Have I really given my life to him? Are there areas where I have excluded Him, where my life is not noticeably different from the lives of those who see Jesus as irrelevant? Who do we say that Jesus is in our daily life? Who do we say that He is when we are in the presence of those who don't know him, those who aren't interested in him? What does the way we live and behave say about who Jesus is? Is the joy, the love, the peace that we find in Jesus reflected in the way we live our lives? We are gathered here today in the name of Jesus. We have not come together to celebrate a long past memorial for a merely good man who died long ago. We are here to celebrate the death and resurrection of Christ, the Messiah, our Lord and personal Savior in this Eucharistic celebration.

10.  We need to experience Jesus as our Lord and Savior and surrender our life to him.  

The knowledge of Jesus as Lord and personal Savior should become a living, personal experience for each Christian. This is made possible by listening to him through the daily, meditative reading of the Bible, by talking to him through daily, personal and family prayers, by offering to him our lives on the altar in the Holy Mass and by being reconciled to him in the sacrament of reconciliation. The next step is the surrender of our lives to Jesus by rendering humble and loving service to others with the strong conviction that Jesus is present in every person. The final step is to praise and thank God in all the events of our lives, both good and bad, realizing that God’s loving hands are behind every event of our lives. 

11.  Are we ready to take up our crosses and follow Jesus?  

Do we have enough faith to offer up a genuine sacrifice for Christ's sake? Can a church in today's self-centered culture ask its people to sacrifice something for the sake of the gospel? Jesus' challenge to all would-be disciples requires more than a "feel-good" spirituality. A true disciple asks, "Am I willing to sacrifice something for the kingdom?" What made it possible for first-century Christians to choose a martyr's death? What has kept generations of Christians from losing faith and falling apart when confronted by the violence and hatred of this world? How can we realize even the day-to-day sacrifices asked by our faith when they demand things we don't want to do? Can we sacrifice some of our time in order to visit a homeless shelter or soup kitchen? Can we sacrifice our job security and refuse to "go along" with a policy that is unjust? Can we sacrifice our need to be in control and let Christ do with us what he will? Can we refuse to let our children watch television programs filled with sex and violence? 
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From Fr. Tony Kadavil's Collection:

1: Quo Vadis Domine?  

Quo Vadis Domine Church in Rome commemorates the experience which followed St. Peter’s decision to avoid persecution and death by going to another city rather than remaining in Rome. The spiritual drama of Peter’s decision with its results has been illuminated and immortalized by Henryk Sienkiewicz, in his 1905 masterpiece Quo Vadis, a novel which won for Sienkiewicz the Nobel Prize in Literature. At the climactic moment of the novel, Peter was leaving Rome with his friend, Nazarius, during the height of Nero’s persecution of Christians. He met the risen Jesus on the outskirts of the city. Jesus, however, was walking into, not out of Rome. The traveling staff fell out of Peter’s hand. His eyes were fixed immovably ahead. His lips were open, and his face reflected unbelievable surprise, immense joy, and rapturous exaltation. Suddenly he threw himself on his knees, his arms lifted upward and stretched to the light, and his lips cried out: "Christ! O Christ!" His head beat against the dust as if he were kissing the feet of someone only he could see. Then there was silence. "Quo vadis, Domine?" ("Where are you going, Lord?" he asked, his voice punctured by his sobbing. Nazarius heard no answer. But a voice of ineffable sweetness and abundant sorrow rang in Peter’s ears, "When you abandon my people," he heard, "I must go to Rome to be crucified once more." The apostle lay still and silent with his face pressed into the dust. Nazarius thought he had either died or fainted, but Peter rose at last, picked up his pilgrim’s staff, and turned again toward the seven hills of the waiting Rome. (http://www.lewrockwell.com/orig7/mccarthy2.html). Today we celebrate the weakness and heroism of this great pillar of the Church.  

2) Suddenly a snake crawled out of the fire:

Paul landed safely on the island of Malta, sixty miles south of Sicily, after going through storms and being shipwrecked. His troubles and trials were many. The persecution of his efforts had dramatically escalated, as he was tossed to and fro on the high seas of life like a ship without sails. On the island, he joined the group traveling with him around a fire and reached over to place a piece of brush-wood in the flames. Suddenly a snake crawled out of the fire and fastened itself on his hand, and he shook it off without harm. Paul was not only unhurt but went on to heal the Polonius' father who had been suffering from fever and dysentery. The experience of Paul is instructive for us, for we too must learn to shake off the serpents which have fastened themselves on us and threaten us harm. We must shake them off and go on with our lives and the Lord's work. The serpent that latched on Paul at this critical time of his journey represents terror, fear, doubt, sadness, depression, unforgiveness, distrust, disobedience, calamity, strife, and apathy. As Paul shook these things off, we must shake them off. The serpent threatened to harm him, thus thwarting his service and movement for God. As believers we must shake off the memory and pain of our own past sin by confession and repentance. Repentance means turning around, changing directions, and starting all over with a clean slate.