Reflection for Saturday June 29, 2019: Saints Peter and Paul, Apostles.

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Morse, Edward
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I hesitate to say that King Herod (Agrippa) was an unprincipled fellow, as he seems to consistently follow a principle of expedience!  His sense of justice was so weak that he was willing to imprison and sometimes execute Christians to keep the mob at bay.  Historians will point out that Herod Agrippa was a relative of Herod Antipas, of whom the gospels report familiar encounters with Jesus and John the Baptist.  Herod Agrippa may have been ignorant of those encounters, but he was about to have his own encounter with the miracle of Peter's rescue.  Unfortunately, this miracle did not kindle faith in Herod.  If we keep reading, we find that a severe judgment falls upon him. (See Acts 12:20-24).|Do other Herods live in our time, who are willing to appease the mob instead of doing what is right?  Let us be wary of them, while avoiding their errors.  And let us remember their end.   Justice sometimes comes with a timetable we do not understand.  The reading in Acts presents a dramatic triumph and rescue, aided by an Angel.  This miracle grew Peter's faith (and others' faith, too), allowing the gospel to spread in a powerful way. |But triumph and deliverance are often not the outcome for believers in this life.  In his letter to Timothy, Paul indicates that his death may be coming soon – and one surmises not through peaceful old age.  Nevertheless, Paul holds this confidence: "The Lord will rescue me from every evil threat and will bring me safe to his heavenly Kingdom."  Paul was also confident that his suffering would generate future blessing. Those who run the good race do not end in vain.  |In today's gospel, Jesus asks the disciples what people say about him.  He was not particularly interested in what the crowd thought, but he was delighted in Peter's testimony, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God".  This generated a blessing and this famous prophesy: "[Y]ou are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it."  Jesus said this despite knowing that Peter would later acquiesce to the mob and deny him three times when the time for his crucifixion drew near.  Jesus knew that there would be other chapters in Peter's story, including the one we read in Acts.|A wise teacher once observed that gates are only a defensive weapon.  Forces of darkness seem to hem us in, holding us hostage.  But we must call to mind the encouragement from our Lord:  those gates are to be broken down.  The truth matters in this world, and God has given us the power to live the truth.  These gates cannot keep us from living in the truth or alienate us from the Kingdom of God.  The Church may be full of imperfect people, like Peter and like you and me, but it is the chosen means for giving us this power.    |In the meantime, if you fall, don't give up.  The future is open, for as long as we have a future. Let us discern the good and follow virtue rather than listening to the cacophony of the mob.  Let us also attend to those who are suffering for the truth, supporting them when we can.  And let us have joy in the confident hope that the Lord will also bring us safe to his heavenly Kingdom.  Thanks be to God.
University Ministry, Creighton University.
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