Sunday, June 29, 2008

Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul - homily

Were the saints always saints? Did they come out of their mother’s womb with “St.” in front of their name? No. In fact, some of the greatest saints were great sinners. St. Mary Magdelene was a “sinful woman” who became the first witness to the Resurrection. St. Augustine was a pagan and playboy – with the famous quote, “Lord, give me chastity but not right now!” - who became one of the greatest theologians in the history of the Church. All saints had a major transformation – a conversion - at some point in their lives. St. Francis of Assisi grew up in a wealthy family and gave up all of his riches to live radical poverty for the sake of the Gospel. The saints are ordinary men and women who lived extraordinary lives; they lived heroic virtue.

The saints we celebrate today - Peter and Paul, Apostles – are no different. St. Peter was as ordinary as they come. He was a fisherman who had moments in the Gospel with which we can all identify. He would even deny Jesus three times. And yet, Jesus gave this ordinary and sinful man the keys to the Kingdom and made him the leader of his Church. St. Paul was vehemently anti-Christian; he participated in the persecution of Christians. He became one of the greatest Christian missionaries of all time.

How do saints become saints? Basically, they see the light. I know it’s a cliché, but it makes the point. The word “light” is significant because it is the sign of God’s presence in the Bible. In Acts 9:3, St. Paul literally saw a great light in the sky on his way to killing Christians one day. The light was Christ. “Oops” about Jesus and Christians, Paul probably thought to himself. He realized that Jesus is the Son of God and had an immediate change of heart. In Acts 12:7, a light shone in the prison cell of St. Peter. Peter realized that God was with him. It confirmed that everything he believed about God and faith in Christ was true.

This is what happens with the saints – they see the light that God does exist. They realize that He is real. They realize that the story of Jesus is real. They realize that Christ is with them. This changes the human heart. And, it’s not just a realization of faith, but also of action. When St. Paul had his epiphany, he simultaneously realized his mission. In other words, at the same moment he received revelation about Christ, he received his calling to proclaim Christ. Saints not only see the light, they live the light.

How do we become saints? It’s very simple: the Eucharist. Every saint has made the Eucharist the center of his or her life. If we center our lives on the Eucharist, we will become saints. We may never have “St.” in front of our name, but we will live heroic lives. The power and grace of the Eucharist is what allows saints to live extraordinary and heroic lives. Mother Teresa once said that she would have only lasted a week serving the poorest of the poor if she didn’t receive the Eucharist every day at Mass. The Eucharist is what leads the saints to do extraordinary things.

In a few minutes, we will see the Eucharist. We will see the light and know that God is present among us. We will not only see the light, we will receive it. May the grace of this sacrament help us to live extraordinary lives. May it help us to live heroic forgiveness, kindness, charity, peace, and joy. May it help us to join St. Peter, St. Paul, and all the saints in the Kingdom of Heaven forever.


At 11:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pope Benedict has proclaimed June 28, 2008 to June 29, 2009 to be the Pauline year to commemorate the second millennium of the birth of the Apostle of the Gentiles. St. Paul was deeply committed to spreading the Good News to all, with a burning desire for unity and harmony between all Christians. How is St. Andrew the Apostle Church and/or the Archdiocese of Washington emphasizing the ecumenical theme that ran through St. Paul’s life?

At 3:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Someone close to me died last week, and I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about things she taught me. One of the things she said (many times) stands out. She told me that all God really wants is to do what we know in hearts is right, and He just wants us to be ourselves. She’d talk abut the different gifts she saw in me and assured me that none of those gifts were too small to be put to work for God. It makes sense, for when I think on the special times I shared with this person, the best times weren’t any grand adventures, but the quiet, normal times we shared. My favorite memories were of dropping by her house unannounced and being served chicken cutlets and spaghetti. They weren’t fancy meals, but always my favorite, because it was of her for me.

In thinking about the lives of the saints, in how they each lived a call to sanctity in different ways, their examples reiterate these sentiments to say that we are each called to imitate them with our diversity. We don’t need to do exactly what Mother Teresa or St. Francis (or Peter and Paul)did, for they’ve already done what they did. Instead, we are called to lead holy lives in our own unique ways, and none of them is too small or unimportant.

Each of us has an individual holiness that builds up God’s reign in ways that others may not. Mother Teresa is known for saying, “Let’s do something beautiful for God.” But there’s more to that saying that speaks to the diversity of our Christian community. When another asked her about serving as she did, she said, “You can do something I cannot do. I can do something you cannot do. Together let us do something beautiful for God.” I think she also said something like, “Find your own Calcutta.” We each have roles- doctors, teachers, firemen, clergy, parents and friends. All of them together are able to do something beautiful for God. There’s a kind of holiness, unique to each person- that’s the way we’re called to be saints. So often, however, we think we have to be/do something else in order to be holy or, as FG said, to live “heroically.” We aren’t meant to be Mother Teresa or St. Francis; we’re meant to be ourselves. The lives of the saints teach us that being holy means just being ourselves. They show us that holiness is the goal you reach by becoming who you are, your true self, as God perfectly designed.

I don’t know- maybe that’s what conversion is- coming to know your “true self.”

At 3:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Although the following comment does not provide specific information on what the ADW or St. A's is doing for the "Pauline Year" Pope Benedict recently announced, it does provide information that I think is valuable to any reader.

The web site, a Dominican site, has an interesting A – Z series on Paul’s life. The articles are simple, concise and, in my opinion, educational. Since the Pauline year has just begun, the website has only discussed Paul up to the letter “D”. A newcomer to the articles could quickly catch up with a few minutes of reading. “A” dealt with Paul’s apostolic authority, “B” with his interpretation of the word body, “C” for the significance of the cross, and “D” for the significance of the city Damascus.

Since I haven’t figured out how to do all that I ask of myself in a day, I decrease some of my guilt (after all, I am Catholic), by reading the website’s posts. This series specifically addresses one of the Pope’s “Pauline Year” requests; that we read and study the writings of St. Paul.

If only one person becomes a little more educated on St. Paul through the Godzdoz's series, the time it took me to write this was well spent.

At 6:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Too bad we don't always view the worst sinners around us as potential saints. If we did, there would be more forgiveness in the world.


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