How deep does your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ go? Life forces us to answer the question, “Who do you say and continue to say Jesus is?!”
The epistle readings for today, the feast of St. Peter and St. Paul, are, as I am encountered by them, lessons in joy. They remind me that being a Christian isn’t about being happy. It is about being joyful. If my investment in being a Christian is happiness, I will be disappointed. But, if I seek the joyful life, I shall never be disappointed.
Therein lies the struggle. Eternal life can only be gained with effort. Seeking joy rather than settling for happiness. Nothing, in my estimation, defines why the Christian life is an ascetical life than this profound difference.
1 About that time Herod the king laid violent hands upon some who belonged to the church.2 He killed James the brother of John with the sword; 3 and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. This was during the days of Unleavened Bread. 4 And when he had seized him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending after the Passover to bring him out to the people. 5 So Peter was kept in prison; but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church. 6 The very night when Herod was about to bring him out, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries before the door were guarding the prison; 7 and behold, an angel of the Lord appeared, and a light shone in the cell; and he struck Peter on the side and woke him, saying, “Get up quickly.” And the chains fell off his hands. 8 And the angel said to him, “Dress yourself and put on your sandals.” And he did so. And he said to him, “Wrap your mantle around you and follow me.” 9 And he went out and followed him; he did not know that what was done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision. 10 When they had passed the first and the second guard, they came to the iron gate leading into the city. It opened to them of its own accord, and they went out and passed on through one street; and immediately the angel left him. 11 And Peter came to himself, and said, “Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.” (Accts 12.1-11)
6 For I am already on the point of being sacrificed; the time of my departure has come. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing…14 Alexander the coppersmith did me great harm; the Lord will requite him for his deeds. 15 Beware of him yourself, for he strongly opposed our message. 16 At my first defense no one took my part; all deserted me. May it not be charged against them! 17 But the Lord stood by me and gave me strength to proclaim the message fully, that all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. 18 The Lord will rescue me from every evil and save me for his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory for ever and ever. Amen. (2 Timothy 4.6-8, 14-18)
Lord knows there are plenty of Good Fridays in our lives – but they will not prevail; Easter will. As we Irish claim, “Life is all about loving, living, and laughing, not about hating, dying, and moaning.”
That’s why a crabby, griping, whining believer is an oxymoron! That’s why we say, “Joy is the infallible sign of God’s presence.”
I saw it in Haiti when I went there with Catholic Relief Services right after the devastating earthquake in January 2010. Crying, horror, death, anguish – you bet, in abundance. But still a resilience and a hope in a people clinging onto faith after centuries of oppression and grind.
–the words of Cardinal Timothy Dolan, from the Foreword of The Fire of Christ’s Love, by Raniero Cantalamesa
“‘Turn, O my soul, into your rest: for the Lord has been bountiful to you’ (Psalm 114:7). The brave contestant applies to himself the consoling words, very much like to Paul, when he says: ‘I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith. For the rest, there is laid up for me a crown of justice.’ These things the prophet also says to himself: Since you have fulfilled sufficiently the course of this life, turn then to your rest, ‘for the Lord has been bountiful to you.’ For, eternal rest lies before those who have struggled through the present life observant of the laws, a rest not given in payment for a debt owed for their works but provided as a grace of the munificent God for those who have hoped in him.” –St. Basil the Great (329-379 A.D.), excerpt from HOMILIES 22)
And so, my “take away” from this time of meditation, is a prayer for the grace to give my energy and focus to seeking joy and offering joy in each encounter today.