Saints Peter and Paul

God chooses ordinary people: Sinners who will become saints in order to understand other sinners and uplift them.

1. The year was 1770, and in a small Italian church, two altar boys prepared for Benediction. Annibale Della Genga and Francesco Castiglioni entered the sacristy, put on their albs, and grabbed the heavy brass candlesticks. And then they began to bicker.
Arguing over who would stand on the priest’s right for the procession, their quibble escalated into a shouting match. Alarmed parishioners turned their heads to the back of the church to see the commotion, and that’s when it happened:

Castiglioni cracked Della Genga over the head with his candlestick.
Blood dripped out of Della Genga’s head, and both boys began shoving each other. Shocked parishioners screamed, “Throw them out! Throw them out!” So the embarrassed priest grabbed the boys, led them to the door, and tossed them out of the church.Image result for Peter and Paul

Now fast-forward several decades to 1825. Half a million people gathered in Rome for the great Jubilee celebration. The Jubilee occurred every 25 years, and its grand climax was the opening of the Holy Door at St. Peter’s Basilica. Traditionally, the Pope would knock on the door three times with a large silver hammer and sing, “Open unto me the gates of justice!” On the third knock, the door would swing open, and the Pope would lead his people through. The symbolism was rich: pilgrims from all over the world coming back home to the Church, following their leader through the great porta fidei, the “door of faith.”
So this Jubilee year, in front of thousands of pilgrims, Cardinal Della Genga made his way to the door. It was fifty-five years after the candlestick incident. Only he was no longer Cardinal Della Genga. He was Pope Leo XII. And as he neared the door, he turned to the Cardinal beside him—Cardinal Castiglioni—and said, “Let me have the hammer.”
With a sly grin, Castiglioni replied, “Just like I gave you the candlestick?”
Amazingly, four years later Castiglioni succeeded his friend and became pope himself, taking the name Pius VIII.
Now if you told any of those pew-sitters back in 1770 that they had two future-popes in the back of their church, they’d laugh you out of the building: “Those two boys? The ones shoving and whacking each other with candles? You’ve got to be kidding me.”
Most of us have a similar reaction whenever we think about evangelization: “What, me?! You can’t be serious. How could I be an evangelist? I hardly know my faith. I’m too timid. I’m too awkward. I don’t like controversy. I’m the last person that should be evangelizing.” Compounding these feelings of fear and inadequacy is the problem that many of us have little idea what evangelization is, or how to do it.

(Greg Willits)
1. General Tito And Archbishop Fulton Sheen Differences

Careless words can hurt people. Not only can they influence a person's self worth, they can actually shape that person's destiny. If you doubt that, consider these two stories.
1. One day in a small country church, an altar boy accidentally dropped the communion wine. The officiating priest slapped him and shouted, "Leave, and don't come back!" That boy became General Tito, the brutal communist dictator who ruled the people of Yugoslavia for years.

General Tito

2. In a big city cathedral, another alter boy dropped the communion wine. His bishop turned to him and whispered reassuringly, "It is ok, someday you will be a great priest." That boy became Archbishop Fulton Sheen, whose sermon touched the heart of millions on national television.
Fulton Sheen

Your words either build people up or tear them down. Here's a truth we don't like to acknowledge; what comes out of our lips reveal what is our heart, and our 'I didn't mean it' doesn't change that or undo the damage. Eugene Peterson Wright once said, 'Every day i put love on the line. There is nothing I am less good at. I'm far better in competition than love; far better at responding to my instinct to get ahead, than at figuring out how to love another. I am schooled and trained in getting my own way. And yet i decide everyday to set aside what i do best and attempt to do what I do very clumsily, open myself to the frustration and failure of loving, daring to believe that failing in love is better than succeeding in pride."

Credit to the stories goes to Father Tony Kadavil: 

1.              "I decided long ago that there are no strangers in my world”:
One of my favourite authors today is a professor at Loyola University in Chicago. His name is Father John Powell. In addition to being a best-selling writer, he is also a highly popular lecturer, teacher, and counsellor.
In his book, entitled, Through The Eyes of Faith, he tells about his prison ministry. About once a month, he visits a prisoner in the state penitentiary. He describes how difficult that is for him personally... the atmosphere is dismal, dark, depressing... and charged with suspicion. However, on one occasion, Father Powell said he had an enlightening and inspiring experience in that stern and somber prison environment. An elderly woman was standing beside him as they moved through the visitor line. Together, they went through numerous security checkpoints. They were required to produce identification; they were required to pass through metal detectors; they were led by heavily armed guards through countless doors made of strong steel bars. And through it all, John Powell said he could not help but notice how this sweet, dear woman was smiling warmly toward everyone, waving tenderly to the guards and calling many of them by name, and greeting everyone in a kind and loving way. John Powell was fascinated with her. She was absolutely radiant. She was a ray of sunshine and a breath of fresh air in that sullen place. Suddenly, John Powell said to her, "Gee, I'll bet you bring a lot of love into this world with your smiling face and words." "Father," she replied, "I decided long ago that there are no strangers in my world. Only brothers and sisters. Some of them I haven't met yet." Reflecting on that experience, John Powell wrote this remarkable paragraph. Listen closely. He said: "That lady drew out of me a deep and warm reaction of love. And gradually I came to realize that people are not one thing, good or bad, but many things. In every human being there is warmth, love, affection, but there is also hurt, anger, weakness. We stimulate or draw out of them one or the other. It all depends upon our approach, and our approach depends upon our attitude." And then Father Powell writes these concluding words: "This was the genius of Jesus. He took people where they were and loved them into life. This is precisely what Jesus did for ... those whose lives He touched. He was a living portrait of love in action. And the caption under the portrait reads: Please love one another as I have loved you. Yes... this was the genius of Jesus. He took people where they were and loved them into life." [See John Powell, Through the Eyes of Faith (Allen, Texas: Tabor Publishing, 1992), pp. 60-61.] This is precisely what we see Jesus doing here in this dramatic passage in Mark 5. He is loving needy and hurting people into life. This passage is a fascinating one because here we have a story within a story. ( 

2.              Christians are called to be compassionate, “wounded healers.”  
Perhaps Henri Nouwen, the Catholic theologian, has said this better than anyone else. The author of many books, Nouwen speaks of Christians as "wounded healers" who have compassion.  Compassion is not pity. Pity lets us stay at a distance. It is condescending. Compassion is not sympathy. Sympathy is for superiors over inferiors. Compassion is not charity. Charity is for the rich to continue in their status over the poor. Compassion is born of God. It means entering into the other person's problems. It means taking on the burdens of the other. It means standing in the other person's shoes. It is the opposite of professionalism. It is the humanizing way to deal with people. "Just as bread without love can bring war instead of peace, professionalism without compassion will turn forgiveness into a gimmick."  

3.              Jesus Christ the leader and healer:  
There was a television program hosted by Barbara Walters sometime back, on which she interviewed three celebrities: Johnny Carson, Johnny Cash, and Walter Cronkite. According to one viewer, Johnny Carson came across as the typical jaded playboy hedonist. Everything he said telegraphed the fact that he was living for pleasure, but, having tried everything and been everywhere he was fed up with the whole thing. Walter Cronkite was the suave humanist, the worldly philosopher. Now retired and wealthy, he was enjoying life as best he could. He was looking at life rather philosophically, but all he really was saying was, "That's the way it is!" Johnny Cash, on the other hand, admitted his background of alcoholism and drug addiction and the fact that he had virtually destroyed a marriage and wrecked his life. But he openly said he had found Jesus. There was peace in his eyes and contentment in his voice. He spoke of a hope for the future which neither of the others had. No doctor could have healed Johnny Cash. Only Christ could do that. Only Christ can heal a broken marriage. Only Christ can heal broken relationships within a family. Only Christ can give us hope when everyone else is telling us that there is no hope to be found. Only Christ can deliver us from sin. Only Christ can take the broken pieces in our lives and put together apostles, disciples and healers of the world. 

4.              Shakespeare and Jesus.  
It was the 19th century British essayist Mr. Charles Lamb who moved the 17th century playwright William Shakespeare from his undeserved obscurity to the limelight of fame. Charles Lamb was once involved in a discussion of the question, who is the greatest literary genius of all time? Two names finally emerged: William Shakespeare and Jesus of Nazareth. Lamb put an end to the debate when he said: “I’ll tell you the difference between these two men. If Shakespeare walked into this room right now, we would all rise to greet him, but if Christ came in, we would all fall down and worship.” There is the essential difference between the Man from Nazareth and all other great people you can think of. Jesus Christ is God and all others, no matter what their deeds, are but fools strutting on the stage for a brief time and then exiting. Today’s gospel describes who Jesus really is and what the unique conditions for Christian discipleship.

5.      The Witness Of History:  
In 1896, after fifteen centuries, Athens renewed the Olympic Games, thus fulfilling the dream of Baron Pierre de Coubertin of France. You can imagine how proud the Greeks were to host the first modern Olympics. You can also imagine how disappointed they were at their athletes' lack of success in event after event. The last competition was the marathon. Greece's entrant was named Louis, a shepherd without competitive background. He'd trained alone in the hills near his flock. When the race started, Louis was far back in the pack of marathoners. But as the miles passed he moved up steadily. One by one the leaders began to falter. The Frenchman fell in agony. The hero from the United States had to quit the race. Soon, word reached the stadium that a lone runner was approaching the arena, and the emblem of Greece was on his chest! As the excitement grew, Prince George of Greece hurried to the stadium entrance where he met Louis and ran with him to the finish line. In this sports tale we have something of the history of the human race. Most historical figures make their impact, achieve a measure of fame and have books written about them, but as the years go by they begin to fade. With Jesus Christ, however, one finds quite the opposite phenomena! Christ started from way back in the pack. He was born in relative obscurity, never had many followers, wrote no books. He died young, was buried in a borrowed grave, and you'd think he'd be quickly forgotten. But, no! His reputation has grown so that today he is worshiped on every continent and has more followers than ever before. Sixteen times has his picture been on the cover of Time magazine, and his sayings have been translated into more than 200 languages. Consider: Socrates taught for forty years, Plato for fifty, and Aristotle, forty. Jesus Christ only taught for three years. Yet which has influenced the world more, one hundred thirty years of classical thought or three years of Christ's? In the Library of Congress there are 1,172 reference books on William Shakespeare, 1,752 on George Washington, 2,319 on Abe Lincoln, and 5,152 on Jesus Christ. Perhaps H. G. Wells best summed up the runaway difference in interest. "Christ," he wrote, "is the most unique person of history. No man can write a history of the human race without giving first and foremost place to the penniless teacher of Nazareth." From poverty and obscurity to teacher to death on the cross, to ascended Lord - Jesus Christ is the growing figure of history. He is unique, for while all others decrease, he increases - until, as the Bible predicts, "To him every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord." Today’s gospel reveals his true identity and describes what one must do to follow him. 

6.     Who do you say that I am?”  
On Sunday morning a man showed up at church with both of his ears terribly blistered. So his pastor asked, "What happened to you Jim?" Jim said: "I was lying on the couch watching a ball game on TV while my wife was ironing nearby. I was totally engrossed in the game when she went out, leaving the iron near the phone. The phone rang, and keeping my eyes on the TV, I grabbed the hot iron and put it to my ear." "How dreadful," gasped the pastor. "But how did the other ear get burned?" "Well, you see, I'd no sooner hung up, the guy called back!" He just didn't get it. Lots of folks never get it and never understand how life really works, even at the simplest levels. That's why Jesus is pressing his followers — and us with a challenging question in today’s gospel: “Who do you say that I am?” (Msgr. Dennis Clarke)

7.     The Catholic general knowledge about the Bible and the Messiah:
A Sunday school teacher was telling the students of how the walls of Jericho came down amazingly by the blowing of trumpets and shouts of the people. Observing that Johnny was day-dreaming, the teacher asked him: “Johnny who knocked down the walls of Jericho?” Johnny started shouting furiously, "I didn't do it, I didn't do it!, and he quit the class in protest. That evening the teacher met his parents in the park and spoke to Johnny’s mother. She told her the story of what happened in the class and about Johnny’s unreasonable outburst in the class. His mother said, "If my son said he didn't do it, then he didn't do it! I trained him not to tell lies.” The perplexed teacher asked Johnny’s mother if she could speak to the boy's father. When she explained the incident to him he said: "Let's not fuss about this. Just tell me how much it will cost to repair the walls and I'll write a check." 

8.     What happens when sermons become sleeping pills:  
"I hope you didn't take it personally, Father," an embarrassed woman said to her pastor after the Mass, "that my husband walked out during your homily." "I did find it rather disconcerting," the preacher replied. "It's not a reflection on you, Father," she insisted. "Ralph has been walking in his sleep ever since he was a child." 

9.     What does Jesus mean to us?  
Founder of a religion like Buddha and Confucius? Revolutionary Jewish reformer? One of the great teachers? Son of God and personal savior? This can perhaps be broken down into other questions: "How do I really see Jesus? Is Jesus a living experience for me, walking with me, loving me, forgiving me, helping me and transforming my life and outlook? What difference does Jesus make in my life? Have I really given my life to him? Are there areas where I have excluded Him, where my life is not noticeably different from the lives of those who see Jesus as irrelevant? Who do we say that Jesus is in our daily life? Who do we say that He is when we are in the presence of those who don't know him, those who aren't interested in him? What does the way we live and behave say about who Jesus is? Is the joy, the love, the peace that we find in Jesus reflected in the way we live our lives? We are gathered here today in the name of Jesus. We have not come together to celebrate a long past memorial for a merely good man who died long ago. We are here to celebrate the death and resurrection of Christ, the Messiah, our Lord and personal Savior in this Eucharistic celebration.

10.  We need to experience Jesus as our Lord and Savior and surrender our life to him 
The knowledge of Jesus as Lord and personal Savior should become a living, personal experience for each Christian. This is made possible by listening to him through the daily, meditative reading of the Bible, by talking to him through daily, personal and family prayers, by offering to him our lives on the altar in the Holy Mass and by being reconciled to him in the sacrament of reconciliation. The next step is the surrender of our lives to Jesus by rendering humble and loving service to others with the strong conviction that Jesus is present in every person. The final step is to praise and thank God in all the events of our lives, both good and bad, realizing that God’s loving hands are behind every event of our lives. 

11.  Are we ready to take up our crosses and follow Jesus?  
Do we have enough faith to offer up a genuine sacrifice for Christ's sake? Can a church in today's self-centered culture ask its people to sacrifice something for the sake of the gospel? Jesus' challenge to all would-be disciples requires more than a "feel-good" spirituality. A true disciple asks, "Am I willing to sacrifice something for the kingdom?" What made it possible for first-century Christians to choose a martyr's death? What has kept generations of Christians from losing faith and falling apart when confronted by the violence and hatred of this world? How can we realize even the day-to-day sacrifices asked by our faith when they demand things we don't want to do? Can we sacrifice some of our time in order to visit a homeless shelter or soup kitchen? Can we sacrifice our job security and refuse to "go along" with a policy that is unjust? Can we sacrifice our need to be in control and let Christ do with us what he will? Can we refuse to let our children watch television programs filled with sex and violence? 
From Fr. Tony Kadavil's Collection:

1: Quo Vadis Domine?  
Quo Vadis Domine Church in Rome commemorates the experience which followed St. Peter’s decision to avoid persecution and death by going to another city rather than remaining in Rome. The spiritual drama of Peter’s decision with its results has been illuminated and immortalized by Henryk Sienkiewicz, in his 1905 masterpiece Quo Vadis, a novel which won for Sienkiewicz the Nobel Prize in Literature. At the climactic moment of the novel, Peter was leaving Rome with his friend, Nazarius, during the height of Nero’s persecution of Christians. He met the risen Jesus on the outskirts of the city. Jesus, however, was walking into, not out of Rome. The traveling staff fell out of Peter’s hand. His eyes were fixed immovably ahead. His lips were open, and his face reflected unbelievable surprise, immense joy, and rapturous exaltation. Suddenly he threw himself on his knees, his arms lifted upward and stretched to the light, and his lips cried out: "Christ! O Christ!" His head beat against the dust as if he were kissing the feet of someone only he could see. Then there was silence. "Quo vadis, Domine?" ("Where are you going, Lord?" he asked, his voice punctured by his sobbing. Nazarius heard no answer. But a voice of ineffable sweetness and abundant sorrow rang in Peter’s ears, "When you abandon my people," he heard, "I must go to Rome to be crucified once more." The apostle lay still and silent with his face pressed into the dust. Nazarius thought he had either died or fainted, but Peter rose at last, picked up his pilgrim’s staff, and turned again toward the seven hills of the waiting Rome. ( Today we celebrate the weakness and heroism of this great pillar of the Church.  

2) Suddenly a snake crawled out of the fire:
Paul landed safely on the island of Malta, sixty miles south of Sicily, after going through storms and being shipwrecked. His troubles and trials were many. The persecution of his efforts had dramatically escalated, as he was tossed to and fro on the high seas of life like a ship without sails. On the island, he joined the group traveling with him around a fire and reached over to place a piece of brush-wood in the flames. Suddenly a snake crawled out of the fire and fastened itself on his hand, and he shook it off without harm. Paul was not only unhurt but went on to heal the Polonius' father who had been suffering from fever and dysentery. The experience of Paul is instructive for us, for we too must learn to shake off the serpents which have fastened themselves on us and threaten us harm. We must shake them off and go on with our lives and the Lord's work. The serpent that latched on Paul at this critical time of his journey represents terror, fear, doubt, sadness, depression, unforgiveness, distrust, disobedience, calamity, strife, and apathy. As Paul shook these things off, we must shake them off. The serpent threatened to harm him, thus thwarting his service and movement for God. As believers we must shake off the memory and pain of our own past sin by confession and repentance. Repentance means turning around, changing directions, and starting all over with a clean slate.