A Reflection for the Octave of St. Peter & St. Paul

During the Octave of St. Peter and St. Paul

 

 

St. Paul’s letters are regularly addressed to the “saints” in whichever community he happens to be writing. For example, “To all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints” Rom. 1:7. The Greek word used is hagiois, literally “holy ones”, and so the phrase could also be translated as “called to be holy”, yet that would not render it any less daunting a designation. The Apostle was not writing to the elite, fellow apostles, exemplary disciples; no, he was addressing all the Christians in that community, everyone who had been baptized into Jesus Christ and been born again of water and the Spirit. Their holiness – saintliness – was not the result of their personal accomplishments, but rather the effect of the indwelling of God the Holy Spirit. As St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, we are just “earthen vessels”, but into these containers God has poured out the treasure of His glorious presence, “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.” 2 Cor.4:7 It is this Presence which works to transform us from the inside out. In fact, as we grow in holiness, the outer appearance becomes more and more transparent, revealing ever more clearly the treasure within: the indwelling Lord. We are fragile “earthen vessels”, formed of the dust of the earth, but He is the Holy One, whose presence makes us holy.

Traditionally, when telling the story of a saint’s life, it has been the pattern to portray not only strengths, accomplishments, and the wonders God has worked through that individual, but the human weaknesses as well. For example, what figure is more powerful and foundational for the Christian Church than St. Peter? Yet who is more deeply humbled in the very pages of Scripture than he, who denied his Lord and was once rebuked as “satan”? – “You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.” (Lk. 22:56-62, Mt.16:13-23, and parallels)

Now, we may argue that Simon Peter was indeed one who stumbled through such bold outbursts and self-preserving denials, etc., before the day of Pentecost, but, transformed on that momentous occasion, became thereafter a powerful and confident leader. However, the records show us that even the Spirit-filled apostle required some strong persuasion to open his arms to the Gentile converts (Acts 10), and, even thereafter, he shrank from being seen by his fellow Jews eating with them (Gal.2:11-14). Then, there is the tradition of his martyrdom.

They say that Peter saw it coming: the web tightening around him in Rome, under the persecution perpetrated by Emperor Nero. He determined to flee for his life. Stealthily he slipped away but, as he sped towards his imagined liberty, he encountered Jesus, heading the other way, back into the city. “Where are you going (“Quo Vadis?” in the original Latin), Lord?” asked the fisherman. “I am going to Rome to be crucified in your place.” came the reply. Humbled once more, Simon Peter turned and headed back to face certain death in witness to the Gospel.

They say that, when the time of execution came, the soldiers would have crucified him just as Jesus had died before him. “No,” he protested, “I am not worthy.”; and so, the tradition goes, Simon the “Rock” was crucified upside down.

In spite of his unworthiness, stumbling and failings, this fisherman, apostle, and friend of Jesus shone, and continues to shine, as one of the brightest of lights bearing witness to the Gospel. We, too, are saints, not because we are strong, good or holy enough in ourselves, but because we are the Lord’s, made holy by His treasure within.

“… to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours… ” I Cor.1:2
 

 

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Published in: on July 4, 2008 at 3:28 pm  Leave a Comment  

Opening Reflections from College Hymn Sing

AUGUSTINE COLLEGE HYMN SING – October 13th, 2007

Soldiers of Christ Arise!

Reflections on the Whole Armour of God (Ephesians 6:10-18)

 

Spiritual warfare is real.

St. Paul has been writing to the Ephesian Christians about the struggles which they face as believers living in the midst of a pagan culture a culture that is very hostile to the Gospel. Yet it is the culture out of which they have come, and Paul points to the snares that are there, warning them about the danger of being drawn back into the sexual immorality, the drunkenness, the idolatry and dishonesty. “You did not so learn Christ.”, he admonishes them, rather “I beseech you, that you walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called…” “Walk as children of the light.

Now, as he begins to wrap up in his final chapter, he emphasizes that our struggle is not a physical battle with a visible enemy, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” This is not a battle to be won by strength of arm, human cunning and strategic plans. No, we must, “be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.” It is spiritual warfare and we need to be equipped accordingly. “Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.”

The WHOLE ARMOUR OF GOD. Pay attention to each term.

It is the “WHOLE” armour the full armour the complete set. Every piece matters. Each one protects a vital part and so, tonight we’ll reflect on each one in turn. God intends, not that we pick and choose which ones suit our fancy, but that we wear it all, that nothing be left exposed for the devil to sink his claws into.

Secondly, it is “ARMOUR”, that is: protection. This battle isn’t about acquiring the biggest gun available that we might blow away the enemy, nor is about seeking him out, looking for trouble. It’s about standing, enduring disarming the enemy as he attacks, depriving him of his ammunition. That ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. ” “ that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.”

To stand fast; to endure; to be faithful witnesses to the Gospel, our feet firmly set upon the Rock which is Christ.

Ultimately, this battle belongs to the Lord; and the “whole armour” we are to put on is the armour “OF GOD”. He alone can fashion it; He alone can supply it. There is no smith on earth who can forge such protection and this is not the time to be pursuing the knock-off versions which are “just as good as the brand name item”. No, this armour has been forged in the consuming fire of Perfect Love, washed and anointed with the Precious Blood of the Lamb, and case-hardened by the fiery wind of the Holy Spirit. This is God’s armour. The brand name is JESUS CHRIST the ETERNAL WORD of GOD. In that Name we take up the armour and in that Name we wear it, that the power of the evil one might be disarmed, that the Light of the Gospel might shine in and through our lives.

Soldiers of Christ, Arise! “Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand

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AND SO LET US BEGIN TO DRESS

“Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth” or, as we heard it read a few minutes ago, “Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist.”“Around your waist” the middle one thinks of the centre of gravity, of balance. This portion of the armour has to do with keeping things in place. In fact, in the ancient world, one did not wear a belt, a cincture, a rope or fabric girdle to keep up one’s pants nobody wore pants in those days. It could be a means of girding on a sword, certainly, but more importantly, it was to hold things in place. It could keep a robe from flapping about, or a breastplate from shifting and exposing that which the armour was designed to protect.

I always remember girding on my “armour” to play goal in ice hockey when I was in College. It did leave much to be desired at the best of times, in terms of protection, but I recall one time in particular when I shifted up to block a high shot. As I raised my shoulder, the pads shifted, and the puck struck me where only a thin layer of felt remained. I wore a rather dark and painful bruise under my shirt for many days thereafter.

Fasten on the belt of Truth, that everything else might be kept in its proper place.

Jesus called the devil the “father of lies”, whereas He identified Himself as the Truth. Satan flourishes in the darkness, where sight is uncertain, sounds are distorted, fear is nurtured, and hidden things seem to grow. Jesus says, “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.”

Satan rattles the bones of skeletons in the closet, and sometimes we begin to cower; But Jesus would have us throw open the doors to let the light and the air flood in. “For everyone practising evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.”

The devil would condemn us in our sins: “Hide them! Lie about them! No one else must know no one could ever forgive!” But we are called to disarm him. Come into the Light. Call sin what it is. Confess it and Christ will take it away, emasculating the devil, depriving him of his power to accuse. If you always tell the truth, goes the old saying, then you never have to remember anything, there are no tracks to cover. “If we confess our sins,” St. John wrote, “He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

To fasten on the belt of truth is to walk in the light of Christ, in humility confessing our sins, acknowledging our weakness, yet holding fast to the reality: the truth that we are forgiven, washed and made new by the One who sees us in our nakedness loves us and died for us that He may clothe us with His ineffable glory.

To fasten on the belt of truth to so gird about the loins is to put on Jesus Christ, the Way the Life and the TRUTH.

“Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth.”

Published in: on October 15, 2007 at 5:28 pm  Leave a Comment