Sunday, 28 June 2009

St Peter and St Paul

The week end of St Peter and St Paul started on Friday by a visit arranged by David to Spring House. Spring House is a charity in the Parish that works with children aged 0-5 and with their parents. Fr Paul Wakelin, onetime curate of this Parish, was instrumental in its setting up. It was great to meet some of the trustees and some of the parents and children that use it; I am looking forward to build fresh links with this good institution. Above are the pictures taken by David during the visit.
This was followed by the hospital visit, Sacred Space, Vespers and Benediction. After Vespers I had time to meet someone who comes for spiritual direction and Carol as she started printing the July/August edition of the Parish Magazine which you can see here.
Saturday we kept the feast of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, an image of our Lady under this title has been in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel since 1971. After Mass I went to Walthamstow Hall School for their prize giving ceremony. In the afternoon I had Baptism preparation and this was followed by the Strawberry Tea at chez Edmeads. This was organized by the Walsingham Cell and was well attended. The afternoon was enjoyed by all.
Today started with a well attended Early Mass followed by Morning Prayer. The Sung Mass of St Peter and St Paul saw the baptism of two new Christians. It was great to reflect on two early Christians as we witnessed two new ones being baptised. After housebound and hospital communions I am now ready to enjoy this nice sunny day. Below are pictures of our Sung Mass and today's homily. More posts on Vienna will follow shortly.
David guessed exactly the number of sweets in the jar - 284 of them!
Today we celebrate the memory of Saint Peter and Saint Paul. At one stage or the other of our life we have heard that these two men are pillars of the Church and so it is. But who are they really?
Peter was from the village of Bethsaida, an unimportant town in Galilee. Life in that part of the country revolved around the Sea of Galilee. Peter had his own business as a fisherman. He was successful and so moved to Capernaum as a master fisherman. His house was very near the synagogue in the centre of the village: his business was good. As Galilee was surrounded by the Gentiles we can assume that Peter spoke some Greek, the modern equivalent would be English, however his main language would be Aramaic with a very strong Northern accent; Peter spoke Geordie. Galilee was a melting pot of different cultures; it was full of idealists and day dreamers. Jesus did not choose from among those but chose his own from the down to earth hard working folk and none more so then Peter. It was here that Peter met Jesus and left his daily work to become a disciple. As you see Peter’s discipleship was costly from the very beginning and at the very end it cost him his life.
Peter must be one of the most attractive figures of the New Testament. His mistakes, enthusiasm and loyalty show true humanity and with him we can identify. Peter is the speaker for the other apostles and Jesus chooses him as leader of the Church. Peter’s original name is Simon (which means the one who listens), Jesus changes his name to Peter (which means rock). What does this change of name tell us?
All of us have the opportunity to listen to God’s word. Peter listened to it, but he did not stop there. Peter accepted what he listened as quite unique, but he did not stop there either. Peter lived what he listened and it is that which made him the rock of the Church. Living the word of God broke all the chains of sin and Peter became the fearless and inspired leader of the Church. Every Sunday when we come here I hope that we listen to God’s word, I pray that we receive it, I long that like Peter we live it.
I imagine Peter urging us today to hear the word of God, accept it with our whole heart and live it so that we too can become as stable and as strong as the rock.
Completely different from Peter is Paul. He is not from poor Galilee but from upmarket Tarsus. Like Peter he is a Jew but not a peasant, he is a Roman Citizen who affords moving to Jerusalem and enrols in the best school of his time. Paul has a substantial business in tent making. He is intelligent, privileged and devotes his life to the Jewish faith. He dislikes Christians and officiates over the execution of St Stephen the first Christian martyr. Stephen meets his cruel death praying for those who are hurting him. This moves Paul no end and prepares him to meet Jesus in such a spectacular way on the road to Damascus. This was the remarkable turning point which changed Paul from a persecutor of the Church to her wonderful apostle. The next 37 years of his life are given over to Jesus. His preaching and his sufferings establish the Christian community around the whole of the Roman Empire. His letters are part of our bible and we listen to them every Sunday as though they are the word of God itself. Paul the most unlikely to qualify as an apostle and yet. Onesiphorus described him as “a man rather small in size, bald-headed, bow-legged, with meeting eye-brows, a large red and somewhat hooked nose but full of grace, for at times he looked like a man and at others like an angel.” In other words Paul was poor in outer beauty yet so rich in the inward one. Paul today invites us to respond to God’s call and make sure that we are beautiful on the inside, in our hearts, minds and souls where it really matters. We do this also when like Peter we hear, receive and live the word of God.
Peter and Paul died as martyrs on the same day and in the same city. It is their cruel death we commemorate today. But we also commemorate two different people who were madly in love with Jesus. It is that love that made them pillars of the faith. That same faith into which today we baptise William and Elliot. We wish them that like Peter and Paul they may be good and faithful disciples, remember parents and godparents that you have the duty to teach them the faith and to teach them to pray, and they will best learn by seeing you living the faith and praying.
May Peter and Paul pray for us that like them we may love Jesus.

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