June 29th, 2020 - Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul
In the letter we hear today written to Timothy, St. Paul speaks of being poured out for God’s glory – of competing well, of finishing the race, of keeping the faith. But the Apostle to the Gentiles isn’t quite as clear on how overwhelming that race can be.
We are living in overwhelming times. Our ongoing COVID-19 crisis, still with a distant and out of sight finish line, is itself morally exhausting. This past month though has also gifted us with the weight of bolstered clarity. We are bearing witness to the even older vaccine-less disease of racism and reckoning with its inherent destructiveness. Our calling demands a remedy for both, but this work – this year! – is just overwhelming; tackling these issues is stressful and difficult, with sensitive topics that are laden with discomfort, relentless mess-ups, and constant trial and error.
But in the clouds of national and spiritual anxiety, the namesakes of today’s ceremony give as a beacon.
Like the blinding light on the road to Damascus, our country’s been thrown out of its apathy and forced to address Christ’s question: “Why do you persecute me?” Where have we ignored Jesus in those who cry out, in those who can’t breathe? Where have we turned away from the black and brown faces who are most vulnerable in our country? For many of us, these are especially challenging and uncomfortable questions. But Paul’s definitive transformation doesn’t happen without discomfort, without the necessary and trying process of opening his eyes to the truth.
Peter, meanwhile, was constantly shown the truth. The man witnessed miracles, transfigurations, and resurrections and was still a constant goof up. Yet tellingly the failures and slipups of Pope #1 aren’t shuffled off to the side but stay front and center to his story. Peter’s acceptance of Jesus as “the Son of the living God” doesn’t make him perfect, nor do his mistakes cede the keys to the kingdom. It’s upon Peter that Christ builds his church; not upon perfection but flawed, broken humanity. Peter trips time and time again on his path to Christ, but he remains on the path. We are not always going to face these crises perfectly, but make no mistake, we do have to face them.
Peter and Paul are saints for these times, not because they’re stain glass superstars and flawless fathers of the church but precisely because they’re not. These are the patron saints of trial and error, deniers and persecutors who still personify the redemption that is not only possible, but necessary, for our Christian calling.
So today let’s bring this to our prayer: What is filling us with fear in this current moment? What is overwhelming us or making us feel powerless? Where, and why, are we struggling to let God into those feelings and spaces?
Remember, it was Simon and Saul who were chosen for God’s work, and it was Simon and Saul who were transformed. We abide over overwhelming times and, most likely, we are ill-equipped to handle them. But it is we who are chosen – it is our turn to transform.