13th Monday in Ordinary Time
Acts 12: 1 – 11; Ps: 34; 2 Tim 4: 6 – 8, 17 – 18; Matthew 16: 13 – 19
When Peter made his confession: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God”, he had no idea of where this profession of faith would lead him or what challenges he would meet. As we know, the simple question of a maid servant led him to deny the Christ he had followed.
After the Resurrection Jesus made this prediction to a humbled and contrite Peter: “Amen, amen I say to you, when you were young, you girded yourself and walked where you would; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish to go…Follow Me.” (John 21: 18f)
It seems to me that Jesus could have made known the same prediction to Paul. Both men would become prisoners and both would suffer martyrdom: Peter crucified upside down and Paul beheaded. In their lives these two exhibited the powerful presence of the Holy Spirit in the depth of their conversion to Christ, in their resolve to be faithful come what may, in their constancy of belief and commitment.
In a word, Saints Peter and Paul preferred nothing to Christ, absolutely nothing – neither their liberty nor their lives. They were men of passion because they had experienced the passion of Jesus Christ for them. St. Paul expresses this so beautifully and so personally to Timothy: “I, Paul, am already being poured out like a libation, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith.”
Peter and Paul had a unique calling from God and both became, by God’s grace, giants in the story of salvation, in the spreading of the Gospel. It is safe to say that neither you nor I have been called to such a vocation. Yet, we are called in our own story of salvation to belief in Christ, to live the Good News, to lay down our lives in faith, hope and charity.
This is our way of being poured out, of competing, in keeping the faith; we experience, we taste the passion of Jesus Christ for us in this Holy Eucharist, the same passion that filled Peter and Paul. With such a divine passion, a love stronger than death we are graced, like Saints Peter and Paul “to walk the talk” – to prefer nothing whatever to Christ. Is there any other way to a true believer?