Against the background of this Sunday’s celebration of the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul let us recall the ancient maxim that the Church prays what she believes and believes what she prays. The prayers here referred to are the prayers which appear in the official Liturgy of the Church. Basically these prayers are prayed in the celebration of the seven sacraments.

Now, the Preface for the Mass this feast tells us that Peter and Paul, each in a different way gathered together the one family of Christ. The same text tells us that Peter was foremost in confessing the faith”, and Paul “its outstanding preacher.

However, I want to add to our introduction the opening words of a famous hymn, THE CHURCH’S ONE FOUNDATION IS JESUS CHRIST OUR LORD. We sing this hymn with great gusto and enthusiasm but should know that both words and music were composed by one SAMUEL WESLEY a devout Anglican organist and composer who (horror of horrors!!) was the grandson of CHARLES WESLEY the founder of Methodism. {Is there a hidden lesson in this little snippet of church history?}

We need in today’s Church men and women who will CONFESS THE FAITH, as well as those who will be OUTSTANDING PREACHERS. Confessors and preachers who gather the “one family of Christ.”

Today’s celebration calls us to broaden our view and deepen our understanding of the Church

. We cannot afford to be cast in stone. The long-standing approaches may well offer a sense of order, meaning, and defence against anxiety – but unless an organisation experiences the breakdown of the predictable, customary, approach there will be no growth. Change and the fear of anticipated or perceived ‘chaos’ actually offer opportunity for creativity – for without a breakdown of the very often predictable manner of responding to new developments and challenges, a true Christian / Catholic approach, influence and culture cannot grow.

Take a careful look at some words of Saint Paul in TODAY’S SECOND READING [2 TIMOTHY 4: 6 – 8, 17 – 18]. There we are told that the Lord stood by me and gave me strength to proclaim the word fully. … So I am rescued from the lion’s mouth.” Then, add to this certainty of faith the promise of Jesus, as expressed in THIS SUNDAY’S GOSPEL [MATTHEW 16: 13 – 19], that the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” (the church.) Too often the ‘authoritarian’ arm of the Church ‘marries’ itself to one particular approach which only provides the predictable answer. In so doing the ongoing power and influence of the Holy Spirit is squashed, and the true prophetic ministry and voice of the Church are smothered. The word of God needs to, must. be, proclaimed FULLY – and this fullness has yet to be discovered and understood. The Catholic Church (and indeed no other Christian Church) does not have a monopoly of the truth or a complete understanding and appreciation of THE WORD IF GOD. It is something we have to constantly strive after.

This striving will often lead us into the lion’s mouth but we must believe that from such danger we will be rescued. The forces of evil shall not prevail. We have, after the example of Paul, to fight the good fight” and finish the race.” Too often we fail to even take our place at the start of the race (or arrive too late!?), and so there is never a question of actually finishing it. If we read Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (all of Matthew’s chapters 5,6, &7) it should be clear that the Lord actually initiated the ‘fight’ and – in fact – pulled the trigger of the race starter’s gun. In addition, the Gospel clearly teaches that Jesus never sidestepped chaotic situations but seized the opportunity of creating something new in the approach to real human problems and difficult situations. How often were his answers predictable?

Now we are presented with the image of Peter as recorded in TODAY’S FIRST READING [ACTS 12: 1 – 11]. Reflect on a possible interpretation of the words wrap your cloak around you and follow me.” Peter was being rescued from the lion’s mouth! Before this command was given, see all the security that had been set around him. There were four squads of soldiers guarding him, he was bound with two chains, a soldier on either side and sentries at the door. In human terms everything was stacked against him – but he heard, understood and was obedient to the call. He wrapped the cloak of his faith around him, and he went out. ….. (and the iron gate) opened to them of its own accord.”

This Sunday celebrates a great feast of different men joined in one faith and ministry in the Church. This church needs different men and women – people unafraid to voice their differences in service – but always in faith, respect and love. We are, each one of us, called by the examples of Peter and Paul (as mentioned last week in another context):

to look for what will make the difference rather than settle for what others might expect.