This weekend St. Peter Parish is celebrating its patronal feast day, transferred to Sunday from June 29. This is permitted during the season of Ordinary Time so that more parishioners may participate in its observance.
Saint Peter usually receives the greater attention on this day. The First Reading and the Gospel are about Peter. In the Gospel Simon’s profession of faith in Jesus as “the Christ, the Son of the living God,” merited for him not only a name change to Peter—a play on the word petra, meaning “rock”—but also the “keys to the Kingdom of heaven” and the power of binding and loosing. He was from the beginning recognized as the chief among the apostles. Since Peter was martyred in Rome, the bishop of that city came to be known as his successor and the chief among the bishops of the whole church. The primacy of the Bishop of Rome, Pope Francis, was celebrated on June 29 at Saint Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican, built over the site of Peter’s burial, with the imposition of the pallium upon all metropolitan archbishops appointed in the past year.
We also celebrate the legacy of Saint Paul, converted from persecutor to apostle, from whom emanated the largest body of New Testament writings apart from the gospels. This first Christian missionary, the Apostle to the Gentiles, was inspired by God to proclaim the gospel persistently, whether convenient or inconvenient. (Cf. 2 Timothy 4:2) Writing from imprisonment in Rome, Paul looked back over his life’s ministry: “The Lord stood by me and gave me strength, so that through me the proclamation might be completed and all the Gentiles might hear it.” (Second Reading) We are the heirs of this legacy of faith, handed down to us by the Church. It is up to us to live by what we have received, so that this living evangelical tradition may continue.
At St. Charles today’s gospel presents Jesus’ teaching about the cost of discipleship. After hearing the excuses of those who had other things to do first, Jesus says: “No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God.” If we claim the name Christian, we must be totally committed to Christ. After all, he was totally committed to us, as the crucifix reminds us.
As we approach Independence Day, we should consider what Christian discipleship means in the American context. Christians ought to bring a moral conscience to the public forum. The Catholic Church has a long tradition of moral philosophy and theology which acknowledges God as the source of truth and right. From the perspective of moral philosophy (ethics), the natural law can be recognized in the Creator’s design of humanity; and from the perspective of moral theology, God has revealed his design in the scriptures (the Ten Commandments, for example) and the constant teaching of the Church.
The celebration of Independence Day is a celebration of the liberties we enjoy as Americans. Free will is one of the attributes God has shared with us in creating us in his image and likeness. Freedom, however, entails responsibility. Saint Paul teaches this in our Second Reading today when he says, “But do not use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh; rather, serve one another through love.” Love is the highest expression of freedom and it places us at the service of one another. Isn’t the service of one another what we understand to be the common good? Paul goes on to say: “For the whole law is fulfilled in one statement, namely, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” Every good and just law–whether the law of God or civil law–is intended to teach us how freedom can be exercised for the common good. Saint Paul sums it up succinctly in his Letter to the Romans (13:10): “Love does no evil to the neighbor; hence, love is the fulfillment of the law.” Why not start the day with Mass at 8:30 at St. Charles to ask God’s blessing upon our nation and to pray for peace in the world! Mary, Patroness of Our Nation and Queen of Peace, pray for us!
Pray the rosary this week for Father Thomas Nirappel as he leaves for his new assignment as administrator of St. Adalbert Parish in Rosholt and St. Mary Parish in Torun. I appreciate so much his help these past two months. Pray for newly-ordained Father Ethan Hokamp as he comes to serve us here. Please continue to keep Father Mark Miller in your prayers, too. Pray for the seminarians studying for our diocese and, as always, pray for peace.
May God bless his people with peace.