I. Big Enough for Peter AND Paul! On June 29, we celebrate the feast of two great apostles and martyrs, who could not have been more different! They sparred, debated, and contributed to the Church in different ways. It was their love for Jesus and their common faith which linked them irrevocably together. Both were martyred around the year 64 A.D. during Nero’s persecution following the Great Fire of Rome. Tradition says that Peter fled Rome to avoid arrest and saw Jesus ‘on the way.’ Peter asked, “Where are you going, Lord?” Jesus replied, “I am going to Rome to be crucified again.” Peter turned back and was crucified upside down because he felt unworthy to die the same way as Christ had. Paul, on the other hand, was arrested in Jerusalem and was sent to Rome, where he was placed under house arrest. Paul was slain by beheading because, as a Roman citizen, he could not be subjected to the indignity of crucifixion.
In today’s Gospel, Matthew 16:13-19, Jesus’ question, “Who did you say I am?” is a personal one each of us must, like Peter and Paul, answer from the depths of who we have come to know Jesus to be for us. Today is a celebration of the entire Church, the believing community who continually professes before the world who Jesus is by our living, by our actions, by how we treat our neighbor. Our Church is big enough for all of us!
II. Freedom To Bear Witness! “Keeping the spirit of the Gospel means that Catholics are to bear witness in love to the full truth about the human person by providing social, charitable, and educational services in a manner that fully reflects the God-given dignity of the human person” (Archbishop William Lori, Chairman of the Committee for Religious Liberty). During this Fortnight of Freedom, June 21-July 4, 2015, our Church universal celebrates a series of great martyrs who remained faithful in the face of persecution by political power: Saints Thomas More and John Fisher, Saint John the Baptizer, Saints Peter and Paul, and the First Martyrs of the Church of Rome.
As Pope Francis said on November 25, 2014: “I cannot fail to recall the many instances of injustice and persecution which daily afflict religious minorities, and Christians in particular, in various parts of our world. Communities and individuals today find themselves subjected to barbaric acts of violence: they are evicted from their homes and native lands, sold as slaves, killed, beheaded, crucified or burned alive, under the shameful and complicit silence of so many.”
“What does ‘freedom’ mean? It is certainly not doing whatever you want, allowing yourself to be dominated by the passions, to pass from one experience to another without discernment, to follow the fashions of the day; freedom does not mean throwing everything you don’t like out the window. Let us not be afraid of life commitments, commitments that take up and concern our entire life! In this way, our life will be fruitful! And, this is freedom: To have the courage to make these decisions with generosity” (Pope Francis, May 4, 2013).
Why not take advantage of your freedom to worship by celebrating Mass on Saturday, July 4, at 9:00am? What a great way to embrace the “Freedom to Bear Witness”!
III. Anointing of the Sick: For those facing major surgery, those who weakened due to the aging process, and those suffering from chronic pain, this special Sacrament offers healing, support, and grace to bear the burden. This Sacrament of Healing will be Sunday, July 5, at all weekend Masses. Please be aware of folks who need transportation. Since it’s also Welcome Sunday, there will be fruit, doughnuts, coffee, juice and water after the Masses.
IV. A Wing and A Prayer! My four vacation days last week were terrific! I visited with a priest friend in Connecticut; then hopped a train to New York City and there reminisced with several college seminary classmates. I also took in a Broadway play! Such a good time! As you may know from Bishop Medley, who graciously filled in at the 9:00 and 11:00am Masses, my getting back to Owensboro was not as smooth: flight delays, flight cancellations, overbooked flights, bumped from a flight, finally landing in Louisville, while my car was parked at Evansville airport! ‘Twas good to get home!
In Joy and Hope,