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Commanding attention: Look at us! Walk!

June 29, 2014

Feast of St Peter and St Paul (Vigil Mass]

Act 3: 1-10                  [Galatians 1: 11-20    John 21: 15-19]

There would have been a lot of beggars in Jerusalem, because giving alms to the poor was considered by observant Jews to be praiseworthy: and where better to beg than where devout Jews were going past to enter The Temple? But Jesus said we should be discrete with our almsgiving, not doing it in public to show off how good we are.[1] So what is going on in this evening’s first reading? Well, St Peter makes it very clear that he is not giving alms to the poor: “I have neither silver nor gold”. No, he does something else. With St John, St Peter publicly heals a lame beggar. The man get much more than he bargained for!

It’s a profound moment, not just for the lame man, but also for Peter and John. Peter is the one who does the talking, but John is also present. The reading from Acts this evening is very clear – it wasn’t only Peter: John also had an active part in the story. They both “looked straight at the begging man and said together, ‘Look at us.”

How did St Peter and St John know what to do? Where did they get the idea that concentrating in deep prayer, focused on an individual, would transform that beggar’s life? Where did they get their confidence? I’ll tell you where.

Do you remember the story of when St Peter first met Jesus? St John was there with him on that occasion too. Something strange happened. Listen carefully to how St John recorded exactly what happened……

Jesus looked hard at him and said, ‘You are Simon Son of John: you are now to be called Peter”.[2]

Note that: Jesus looked hard at him. A profound moment in St Peter’s life, witnessed by St John. It’s a moment of connection, communion between Jesus and Peter. A deeply spiritual moment. It’s a moment of intense prayer. Words are not needed at times of intense prayer and discernment.

Gazing intently on the disabled beggar would also be reminiscent for St Peter of a terrible moment, no doubt etched into his memory, when Jesus again held Peter’s intimate gaze. It was that awful instant, when Jesus most needed Peter, when Peter denied Jesus for the third time. Quote: “While he was still speaking the cock crew, and the Lord turned and looked straight at Peter.”[3]

Today we see how Peter and John stepped out in faith, having learnt from their own experiences of Jesus just how to change people’s lives. They are working together as a team, putting their trust completely in God. Willing, in public, not only to be a laughing stock if it what they do doesn’t work, but also willing to risk the anger of the Temple authorities for daring to heal someone. Remember, when Jesus himself had performed healings done in the Temple, the authorities had decided enough was enough, that Jesus would have to be killed. Only weeks later, Peter and John are back in the Temple, with Peter taking the lead, fearlessly invoking the name of Jesus, proclaiming Him to be the Messiah in front of everyone, and with great faith, based on their own experience, boldly copying what Jesus did.

Today, we see St Peter transformed, bold, courageous, commanding, through complete trust and belief in Jesus. “In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, walk!”

And what did this man cured by Peter do immediately afterwards? He went into the Temple, praising God – He too, like Saints Peter and John, had faith.

Here’s the inspiring message for us from this evening’s readings: learn from your own experience of God’s goodness. Ponder on your own significant spiritual journey. The joyful, happy moments, when you were exhilarated and inspired. What happened? What was said? What was it that moved you profoundly? But, like St Peter, we are also affected by the low moments, the tragedies, the failures. They are spiritually just as important. What brought you through the misery? What lifted you up again? From pondering on these personal experiences, like St Peter, learn what worked for you. As St Paul says, “Just as we have a share in Christ’s many sufferings, so also through Christ we share in his great help.”[4]

Almost certainly our lives have all been marked by deeply spiritual events. Pray about them for understanding. Strengthen your faith by meditating on Jesus, being in communion with Jesus Christ, and remembering what he has done for you in your own life. We should then, all of us, like the Apostles we heard about this evening, be bold enough to step out in faith and recreate for the benefit of others what led us to be touched by God.

  • It might have been someone who was an inspiration to you: Do what they did.
  • It might have been a prayer that was answered: Pray in the same way for someone else.
  • It might have been someone’s helping hand or understanding: Reach out and help someone in the way you were helped;
  • It might have been a passage from the Bible: Tell someone else about it.

I know what you’re thinking….. ‘But I’m just little me, I’m not St Peter or St Paul’….

Above all, we need to remind ourselves that Jesus knows and understands our frailties and weaknesses. That is why He left us the Sacrament of the Eucharist, the gift of Holy Communion, so that we can receive, 100% guaranteed, a spiritual strengthening by being, literally, in communion with Jesus Christ – an astonishing moment in our lives – being with Jesus and gazing into His face. Receive our Lord in Faith. And then – step out in faith and be amazing.

[1] Matthew 6:1-4

[2] John 1: 41-42

[3] Luke 22: 61

[4] 2 Corinthians 1: 3-7

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