Sunday, 29 June 2014

St Peter and St Paul

Acts 12:1-11; 2 Tim 4:6-8,17-18; Ps 33
Today we celebrate the feast of the two great apostles who founded the Church of Rome.
Both of these great apostles ultimately died a martyr's death, died for The Lord, in the service of The Lord. And yet, as I was reading the texts for today's feast, I was struck by the fact that both our first reading and our second reading refer not to their deaths but to their being spared death, spared by The Lord:
St Peter was sent an angel to rescue him from prison;
St Paul, as we heard, referred to how he too had been spared by The Lord: "I was rescued from the lion's mouth" (2 Tim 4:17).
Our psalm echoed this sentiment in the refrain: "The angel of The Lord rescues those who revere Him"(Ps 33:7).

And yet, ultimately, both died. Both died for Christ.
They were each spared that one time, in fact, they were spared many times -St Paul gives us a huge list at one point: shipwreck, stoning, scourging etc
BUT they were ultimately called to that which they were spared at that moment.

And two things occurred to me about this:
First, that we can never presume to know what God has in store for us. Just because He has spared me a problem I am worried about today, that doesn't mean He won't call me to bear it tomorrow -presumably when the time in right, presumably when He has sufficiently prepared and strengthened me for it.

Second, and deeper, the REAL rescuing that The Lord does for us is from eternal spiritual calamities.
He was delivered me from my sin, and He re-delivers me each time I sin and repent again.
The real "lion" He rescues me from is the Evil One, the Devil, who St Peter warns us, "prowls about like a roaring lion looking for someone to eat up"(1 Pet 5:8)
But if I will trust The Lord, He will rescue me from this lion.

And that trusting in that ULTIMATE fate, that REAL rescuing, is what we find in both St Peter and St. Paul.
Thus we heard St. Paul ready for the end, saying that his "life was being poured out like an libation"(2 Tim4:6).
And tradition similarly testifies to the bravery of St. Peter at the end: wishing to be crucified upside down rather than the right way up, because he said he unworthy to die the same way as The Lord.

But, before this, Scripture records how each of them were rescued from the Evil One by being rescued from their sin:
St Paul was the vicious persecutor of the Christians, yet he was called while in the road to Damascus and came into the light.
St. Peter had fallen three times in disowning The Lord, and yet was spared, forgiven, raised up: by that threefold 'do you love me' questioning The Lord put to him after his resurrection: 'Simon, son of John, do you love me..."(Jn 21:17).

So, as we think of them today, let us think of how The Lord rescued them. But let us think especially of the REAL rescuing they were granted: from the power of the Evil One, that they might know the glory of heaven -the rescuing promised to all followers of The Lord.

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