Solemnity of Saint Peter and Paul

Lectionary 591

R. The angel of the Lord will rescue those who fear him.
The angel of the LORD encamps
around those who fear him, and delivers them.
Taste and see how good the LORD is;
blessed the man who takes refuge in him.
R. The angel of the Lord will rescue those who fear him.

One of the gifts of aging is the awareness of frailty. Although 67 is not considered old anymore, particularly not among priests; and although I am in better shape than most people of 67 years: I can say with the comedian, "The older I get, the better I used to be."

With age comes obedience to leaders younger than myself, and the bittersweet memory of having been in leadership positions. I've been there, done that, and got the scars to show for it.

So when we celebrate this Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul I appreciate all the more these mortal men, what they accomplished, and more importantly, what God accomplished with them.

That's why I chose the verse from Psalm 34 to head this essay,

The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them.
Amphora, used to ship wine
on Mediterranean ships

The priest, bishop or cardinal foolish enough to accept leadership in the Church must also be wise enough to recognize his own frailty. He has much authority and very little. The great authority invites trouble; the little authority invites futility. The great authority can accomplish many things; the little authority, at the end of the day, wonders if I made any difference at all.

Saint Paul, battered and abused, shipwrecked, hungry, cold and exposed to the elements, saw himself as an earthen vessel, fragile, brittle and inexpensive. If the amphora managed to deliver its load of wine to its destination, it could expect to be smashed and tossed in the street.

He would also say, "I am already being poured out like a libation, and the time of my departure is at hand."

Totally dedicated to the Gospel, Saint Paul knew his own worth. He would not express it in dollars or cents, or with words like greater and lesser. He was grateful God had used him for as long as God chose, and grateful to be gathered into God's presence at the end of his life. Even as the executioner approached he must have whispered,

Taste and see how good the LORD is; blessed are those who take refuge in him.

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I love to write. This blog helps me to meditate on the Word of God, and I hope to make some contribution to our contemplations of God's Mighty Works.

Ordinarily, I write these reflections two or three weeks in advance of their publication. I do not intend to comment on current events.

I understand many people prefer gender-neutral references to "God." I don't disagree with them but find that language impersonal, unappealing and tasteless. When I refer to "God" I think of the One whom Jesus called "Abba" and "Father", and I would not attempt to improve on Jesus' language.

You're welcome to add a thought or raise a question.