Thursday, November 18, 2010

Peter and Paul

Today we celebrate the memorial of the dedication of the Basilicas of Sts. Peter and Paul in Rome.  The feast reminds us that the Church is built on the foundation of the apostles.  Their preaching, along with that of the other Apostles, is the foundation of what is contained in Sacred Scripture and Tradition.  They are the witnesses whose testimony is true and sure.  They were not perfect men; Peter always seemed to be struggling with internal conflicts and uncertainties.  In today's Gospel for the feast (MT. 14: 22-33) Peter is brave enough to follow Christ on the water, but weak enough to sink when the waves got rough. Paul was much more self confident, but contended with ship wrecks, robbers, misunderstanding, distention in his ministry.  But in their weakness God's grace sustained them to the end, until they witnessed their fidelity with their lives.  We should take courage that God takes the weak and makes them strong, so our weaknesses shouldn't disturb us.  God will use our gifts, and even make us saints, warts and all, if we remain faithful.   

This feast calls to mind the vastness of the Church and Her mission. I've been blessed enough to see this vastness with my own eyes. In 2005 I went on a family vacation that brought me to the land of my ancestors, Calabria Italy.  I had the opportunity to celebrate the Eucharist in two very different places; the local parish in my grandfather’s village and in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.  The two buildings couldn’t be more different.  One is a small unknown sanctuary; the other is the largest, most famous church in the world.  But these two places brought me closer to understanding the great reality of the Catholic Church: that She is both local and universal.

In the parish church at Belmonte Calabro, I stood at the altar from which countless generations of my family were nourished with the Lord’s Body and Blood, in a place where they were baptized, married and were given their final farewell to this life.  For the people of this small village, this humble church is the most important place in the world, unifying the past with the present and giving hope for the future.  They love it because it is theirs.  It is their spiritual home where they encounter Christ.

At St. Peter’s in Rome I celebrated the Eucharist at one of the many side alters that line the walls of the great basilica.  At the same time other priests also celebrated their Masses in all the languages of the world.  Pilgrims wandered from alter to alter to find a Mass being said in their own tongue.  This represents the fact that the Church is larger that a local parish community.  It is bigger than one language group.  It is the universal community where all can find a place at the Lord’s table.

We should love our parish community, and support it, because it is ours.  It is the place we come as the family of God to remember the good things the Lord has done for us, and celebrate the mile stones of our lives.  At the same time we should never forget that we are members of a world wide community, united by Christ in the sacraments and by the pastoral hand of the Holy Father.  The two realities of the local and universal churches are not in opposition, but serve to remind us that the Church is our true home on earth.  One that is as close as our parish and as big as the world.

No comments:

Post a Comment