The Struggle & Hope
Gospel Reflection for Thursday, June 28, 2023
There are certainly a lot of verses to choose from today! This is the Solemnity of Saints, Peter and Paul and we have three sets of Mass Readings one may hear today. All are focused on these two holy Apostles. Mainly discussed are the authority and suffering of these two great saints who would both die in Rome, as martyrs. As Christians, but especially as Catholics, we need to meditate more upon the martyrs. Although all of Christianity that is even slightly identifiable as Christian is under attack right now in our culture, Catholics have to specifically deal with persecution from within our own church as we see Father Pavone defrocked, Bishop Strickland facing discipline that seems to be due to his standing strongly for traditional Catholic morals and teachings, leaders who identify as Catholic promoting abortion, homosexuality and other abominations, and strong words from the Vatican against traditional (and Traditional) Catholics. Faithful Catholics used to chide each other when one would complain about the state of the Church, “Do you think you are more Catholic than the pope?!” In all honesty it is getting hard to answer to that charge….
But, the purpose of this article is not to criticize Pope Francis. In fact, I will take this opportunity to discuss the office of the Papacy.
When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi
he asked his disciples,
“Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah,
still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Simon Peter said in reply,
“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah.
For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.
And so I say to you, you are Peter,
and upon this rock I will build my Church,
and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.
I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of heaven.
Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven;
and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
Although many have questioned the meaning of these words over the centuries, trying to find loopholes in the Greek language or twisting the plain words of Christ to mean something other than what He plainly said, the words He spoke in Aramaic were absolutely clear. Peter, perhaps the second most flawed and weak of all of His Apostles would be the rock upon which Our Lord would build His Church. Surely, Peter was not as flawed as Judas, but He was intemperate, weak, inconsistent and the only one of the twelve recorded to deny Jesus publicly. Why would Jesus choose Saint Peter? Perhaps, because through Peter he could show us that no matter how badly we get things wrong, He would forgive us and give us the grace necessary to do His will in spite of ourselves. Additionally, He proved that His Church is a supernatural institution, able to overcome human weakness and failing.
After the Resurrection, Our Lord asked Saint Peter three times if he loved Him and would feed His sheep. His three affirmations were in remission for his prior denials. He then assumed the role of the first pope. Filled with the Holy Spirit, given the power to heal, cast out demons, read souls (as in the case of Simon the Magician) and even pass very absolute judgements as when Ananias and Saphira lied to him, truly he had the power to bind and loose with all the authority God had promised. His word was final on all matters of faith and doctrine. All Christians deferred to him, even Saint Paul who would not hesitate to argue and to publicly chastise him when natural weakness resurfaced…. Saint Peter, it is evident, lacked natural courage in his character.
Eventually, Saint Peter would willingly die the martyr’s death as foretold by Our Lord. He did not run from it. He did not compromise. According to legend, he asked to be crucified upside down and preached to the pagan Romans as he was killed. The faithful collected his remains and enshrined them in a place sacred to the earliest Christians. Over this place the Basilica of Saint Peter would be built and the very altar that is the center of Christianity would be built over his bones. Quite literally, the One, Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church is built on the rock that is Saint Peter, a man whose titles and attributes, and certainly his final courage, came not through his own merits but the very power of God.
In this time of confusion, we face what the early Church called “white martyrdom.” We may not have to die for our faith, but we will be hated, derided, smeared, lose friends, family and employment due to refusal to abandon the morals and doctrines of the Catholic Church…. we may even be persecuted by officers of the Church. Well, what can I say? Jesus promised that very thing. He said that we would be hated for our Christianity. But, He also told us that “those who endure until the end will be saved.” Perhaps to show us that persecution would often come from within, He chose Judas as His Apostle. Perhaps Saint Peter and Judas even faced similar temptations, shared similar weaknesses and either man may have chosen well or poorly. Saint Peter chose to be the faithful servant in spite of his weaknesses. Judas sold his loyalty for money, betrayed our Lord, and died the greatest villain in human history. But, both were necessary.
I do not claim to know why our current struggles are necessary. I do believe, as the Church teaches, that God uses even evil and confused men for His purposes. He wills everything for our good and died on a cross to redeem even the worst of us who are willing to accept it. His words are the same throughout all time and His love never fails. His Church is “a shining city set upon a hill, visible to all ages” and His people will always be persecuted and despised.
The words of Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen (whom we can only pray will be soon elevated to sainthood when our Church leadership gets along perhaps a bit less well with the world) said:
“If I were not a Catholic, and were looking for the true Church in the world today, I would look for the one Church which did not get along well with the world; in other words, I would look for the Church which the world hates. My reason for doing this would be, that if Christ is in any one of the churches of the world today, He must still be hated as He was when He was on earth in the flesh. If you would find Christ today, then find the Church that does not get along with the world. Look for the Church that is hated by the world, as Christ was hated by the world. Look for the Church which is accused of being behind the times, as Our Lord was accused of being ignorant and never having learned. Look for the Church which men sneer at as socially inferior, as they sneered at Our Lord because He came from Nazareth. Look for the Church which is accused of having a devil, as Our Lord was accused of being possessed by Beelzebub, the Prince of Devils. Look for the Church which theworld rejects because it claims it is infallible, as Pilate rejected Christ because he called Himself the Truth. Look for the Church which amid the confusion of conflicting opinions, its members love as they love Christ, and respect its voice as the very voice of its Founder, and the suspicion will grow, that if the Church is unpopular with the spirit of the world, then it is unworldly, and if it is unworldly, it is other-worldly. Since it is other-worldly, it is infinitely loved and infinitely hated as was Christ Himself. ... the Catholic Church is the only Church existing today which goes back to the time of Christ. History is so very clear on this point, it is curious how many miss its obviousness...”
Judson Carroll is the author of several books, including his newest, Confirmation, an Autobiography of Faith. It is Available in paperback on Amazon:
His new podcast is The Uncensored Catholic https://www.spreaker.com/show/the-uncensored-catholic