June 29 – Solemnity of Saints. Peter and Paul, Apostles
Peter (c.1–64) was a professional fisherman. He was the brother of St. Andrew the Apostle, the man who led him to Christ. Given the name Simon, he was renamed “Peter” (rock) by Jesus to indicate that Peter would be the rock-like foundation on which the Church would be built. He later became a bishop and was the first pope. He was also a miracle worker.
Paul (c.3–c.65) was a Jewish Talmudic student and a Pharisee. He was a tent-maker by trade. Saul the Jew hated and persecuted the Christians as heretical, even assisting at the stoning of St. Stephen the Martyr. On his way to Damascus, Syria, to arrest another group of faithful, he was knocked to the ground, struck blind by a heavenly light, and given the message that in persecuting him, causing his conversion to Christianity.
He was baptized, changed his name to Paul to reflect his new persona, and began travelling, preaching, and teaching. His letters to the churches he help found form a large percentage of the New Testament. He knew and worked with many of the earliest saints and Fathers of the Church. He died a martyr for the faith.
– Patron Saint Index
2 Tim 4:6-8,17-18
“Now I know it is all true,” he said “The Lord really did send his angel and has saved me from Herod and from all that the Jewish people were so certain would happen to me.”
In the gospel today, Jesus posed an unexpected and abrupt question to the apostles regarding his identity in public opinion. “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” It was a fitting time in spiritual uplifting through which the Lord had probably foreseen. A time of seeming failure and partial desertion; where many followers left and turned away from the Lord after Capernaum. Jesus made this inquiry not because he was ignorant what the people thought and spoke of him, for their thoughts and words were perfectly known to him, but that he might have, from themselves, a declaration of their faith, and therefore take occasion of confirming and strengthening them in it.
Similarly in the first reading, we read that the martyrdom of James was pleasing to the Jews which, in turn, emboldened King Herod in his persecution of the apostles. Both passages painted a rather bleak and uncertain future in the fate of the Church. In the world today, we are regularly confronted with situations that are overwhelming, unknown, or even threatening. Change is the only constant, and uncertainty is the only sureness that is inevitable. As the focus on the pandemic shifted towards the dismal economic situation, what does it look like for us to spring with confidence into every situation that the Lord brings into our lives? Economies have been in a flux worldwide since the pandemic abated. Countries are still reeling from supply chain issues whilst the prices of raw materials and commodities have skyrocketed, paving the way for record inflation in numerous countries. War in Ukraine and the resulting sanctions against Russia only exacerbated the situation further. The S&P500 has just registered the worst start of the year since 1940 at the time of writing. Closer to home, we are about to witness a shortage of chickens with the export ban from Malaysia. Indeed, negativity and pessimism seem to pervade every part of our lives.
The relationship between our secular lives and spiritual lives is intertwined. It has always been the case since the days following the Exodus, where Israelites were provided with manna from heaven to sustain the population from starvation. The physical sustenance had to be satisfied so that the people could focus on their spiritual needs. It is the same with missionary work in less developed countries; charities concentrate their efforts in providing for the basic needs of the people rather than an outright evangelisation of the gospel from the onset of their mission.
As Psalm 46:1 declares, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear.” God sometimes takes us out of our trouble. More often, He helps us get through it. Paul’s strong conviction in the second reading is a testament of the confidence in God’s succour. In a sense, today’s uncertainties are good if they lead us to depend less on ourselves and more on our God. If we are to trust the Lord in this way, we need to know, beyond a shadow of doubt, who God is, and what our relationship to Him is. We need to have a clear conviction and to stand firm in that faith. In times that are increasingly difficult, uncertain, confusing and full of deception, our greatest source of strength is to be able to hold on to what is true and unchanging. If we find ourselves floundering in quicksand, we need to find the solid bedrock of God to hold on to until help arrives. The dreary economic situation and inflation rates will abate in a matter of time. As the Persian adage aptly summarizes – “This too shall pass”. That is the ephemerality of life.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Dylan Tan)
Prayer: Lord Jesus, just as you were with your disciples in the midst of the stormy seas, we pray that you’ll always be with us through our storms in life. Help us to trust that you will rise up and calm the raging seas when the time is right. Strengthen our faith so that we may walk with you through good times and bad. May you shower your comfort upon us and give us the peace that transcends all understanding. Amen.
Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for being with us every single moment of our lives and guiding us through the darkest valleys of our lives.