2 Tim 4:6-8,17-18
After more than three months of lockdown the news about easing restrictions has generally been met with great relief. Churches are gradually allowed to re-open and the start of public worship is on the horizon. Of course the announcements make big headlines. In reality it is much more difficult to put the small print into practice and it is clear that this takes time.
It is not an easy process and there is an ongoing fear of new spikes and a second wave of Corona. The return to normality will take time and often I hear that we will never return to what it used to be. Whaterver it will be, it will not be the same; there will be changes. That applies to society at large, but also to the church, including our parish community.
Our friends at home who are on our parish mailing list will have received the news that our community will soon see another change with Fr. Jenish taking over the parish leadership in August.
Change is part of human life. Saint John Henry Newman summed this up beautifully when he said, “To grow is to change and to be perfect is to have changed often.”
Pondering on this, I am reminded of the two apostles we celebrate today: saint Peter and saint Paul. They lived in time of huge change at all kinds of levels. On a personal level Peter experienced the change from being a fisherman on the Sea of Galilee to becoming leader of the Christian community after the death and resurrection of Jesus. He became the rock on which the Lord wanted to build his church. This took him from Galilee to Rome.
Paul was a devout Jew, a Pharisee, with great zeal in persecuting Christians. On the road to Damascus he was touched by the Lord and experienced a dramatic change. He became a dedicated disciple and took the gospel from rural Palestine to the urban centres of the Mediterranean world.
Apart from the changes they experienced in their personal lives, Peter and Paul were also instrumental in facilitating change in the life of the early church. From a Jewish sect it became a universal church with people from all nations being able to join. It is difficult to imagine the impact of this. Gentiles were welcome and could become full members without having to adopt all Jewish customs. It must have been a huge challenge for the community. Reading the accounts of it in the Acts of the Apostles we know that it was not without tensions and difficulties.
In dealing with the changes and adaptation to new circumstances the apostles held on to the core of the gospel. In today’s readings this is described and illustrated in words focused on setting people free. Peter’s key ministry is summed up with the words ‘binding’ an ‘unbinding’. His own experience was one of being set free from prison chains and I think this is quite symbolic.
Peter’s ministry is reflected in the ministry of the church. We see it expressed in a sacramental way, especially through confession and the celebration of reconciliation, We also see it expressed in other dimensions of the church’s ministry when a listening ear is offered or a word of encouragement or some practical relief in a difficult situation. ‘I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.’ These words of the Lord are realised when these things happen and people are set free. Each one of us can contribute to this.
Saints Peter and Paul are described as ‘Pillars of the Church’. We get the impression of them being very powerful men. When we follow their journey, however, it is clear that before they took important decisions, they always presented them to the Lord. They prayed about it and invoked the Holy Spirit for guidance. This is also something we may take on board as we face change and respond to its challenges. Create space for the Lord, hold it in the light and let the Holy Spirit lead us. What we do is done in God and it will be good.
Today Peter and Paul are our companions, May they inspire us on our journey and may their intercession strengthen us in facing the changes in these unprecedented times.