Thursday, June 26, 2014

Love is the Author and Finisher of Our Faith


On the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul


     How could Peter be so rightly convinced in his heart that Jesus was truly the Son of God, but then after Jesus' arrest, swear up and down that He didn't even know Jesus? After Peter made his profession of faith in reply to Jesus' question, "Who do you say that I am?" Jesus tells the Apostles that because He is "the Son of the Living God," His life is about doing the Father's will, and to fulfill that mission, He must allow Himself to be arrested and put to death. That's when Peter protested, saying that God should instead forbid such things from happening.  

Statue of St Paul in front of St Peter's Basilica in Vatican City, Italy.
     What Peter's lack of understanding about Jesus' identity and mission tells us about his faith-- and about ours as well-- is that faith is not a learned skill or personal attribute, but is totally a gift from God.  As it is a gift, we do not deserve it, and as it comes from God, we cannot understand it without His help. So how are we then to respond to this gift?  By humbly saying "thank you," taking possession of it as our "pearl of great price," and then asking God to show us what His purpose and intention is for this gift of faith in our lives. Peter had readily received the gift of Jesus from the Father, but still had his own idea of what the right purpose of that Gift should be.

     As we consider and celebrate the lives of Peter and Paul on the occasion of this solemnity, we might be struck by how greatly different these two men were from one another. Peter was an uneducated fisherman, but one could easily imagine him with a tendency to contemplation, as fishermen have much time on their hands to think about other things while waiting for the right conditions and the right fish.  Having to often act on the spur of the moment by profession, we can also understand his impetuous nature and speech. Paul, on the other hand, was highly educated, steeped in the letter of the Law, and calculating by nature. But as the Lord does with all of us--because He knows us better than we know ourselves-- Jesus knew exactly the right method and the perfect moment for capturing and converting their stubborn hearts.

     Faith is not only a call to trust God for everything, but is also a call to mission. As did Peter and Paul, as we also make our journey of formation and maturity in the faith, we find that we also come to love the God who has given us the gift of knowing Him, and as this love matures, we find ourselves wanting to serve Him. As we pray in one of the Mass' Eucharistic prayers, "our desire to praise You is itself Your gift," so we must also remember that the work God has given each of us to do is HIS work, not ours.  And if we truly love Him, there is nothing that He could ask us to do that we would not say "YES" to-- just as Jesus said yes to the Father in all things, even as He went to the cross.