Our neophytes are finding themselves increasingly ‘at home’ in the parish community, which is fantastic – life-giving for all. They have talked a lot about their Easter experiences over the last months, and the community have shared their lives in many simple, small ways. The heart-beat of the Word pulsing throughout the process of preparing these people for the sacraments, continues in other forms in the parish. And yes, the community continue to give ‘thoughtful and friendly help ‘ (RCIA 234)
However, once again the process of initiation has challenged us. Why am I surprised that the readings for the feast of Saints Peter and Paul raise more questions than answers? Yes, we have received into our community a number of people this year, but there are still so many people ‘sitting at the Beautiful Gate’ turning to us expectantly, and hoping to get something from us, and actually either we don’t notice them at all, or we are frightened of them because they are ‘different’, or we are too busy, or we don’t think the Church can support even a conversation with them, so we ignore them.
Perhaps for me the challenges are:
- Can we notice the people on the edge, and try and get into their shoes?
- If we ask them to ‘Look at us’ what do they see?!
- How can we engage their trust and confidence?
- If we say (with Peter) ‘I will give you what I have’, what exactly do we mean by that?
- When we hear the questions from Christ for ourselves: ‘Who do you say I am?’ and ‘Do you love me?’ and find ourselves saying with Peter ‘You are the Christ’ and ‘Yes, you know I do’, how do we avoid paying lip-service, and actively respond to Christ’s follow-up: well then, feed my lambs and look after and feed my sheep?
- And what about the Church in Acts – do we ‘pray to God unremittingly’ for one another, and for those in troubled circumstances?
- How can we make ourselves available, and be that liberating and healing presence? How do we show we care and not leave people with a sense of isolation and rejection?
Peter took the crippled man by the hand and helped him to stand up on his own two feet for the first time (and the man was jumping up and down and praising God! ) Can we dare to do this? I think so, yes, because, as Paul says in his letter to Timothy, the Lord will stand by us and give us the power – power to bind up the wounds of hostility, disparaging remarks, prejudice, and power to loosen the bonds of helplessness and hopelessness.
Solemn Blessing for the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul: You might like to pray this line by line, very slowly, allowing silence between phrases. How does it speak into your life?
The Lord has set you firm within his Church
which he built upon the rock of Peter’s faith.
May he bless you with a faith that never falters.
The Lord has given you knowledge of the faith
through the labours and preaching of Saint Paul.
May his example inspire you to lead others to Christ
by the manner of your life.
May the keys of Peter, and the words of Paul,
their undying witness and their prayers,
lead you to the joy of that eternal home
which Peter gained by his cross, and Paul by the sword.