Today we celebrate the feast of Saint Peter and Paul.
Each of them went through their times of confinement, of social isolation. There were each imprisoned for their preaching of the gospel. In the first reading, we heard that King Herod arrested Peter and put him in prison.
Yet, according to that reading, Peter in prison was supported by the prayers of the church, ‘the church prayed to God for him unremittingly’. The Lord came to him in his imprisonment through the prayers of the faithful.
The Lord came to him in an even more dramatic way through an angel who delivered him from his confinement and restored him to the community of faith. Peter declared, ‘The Lord did send his angel and has saved me”. Hopefully, the story of Peter reflects our own experience. When we are confined, socially isolated, the Lord does not isolate himself from us.
Even when we cannot come to church, the Lord comes to us. The Lord knows nothing of social isolation. He has been with us all this time, and he remains powerfully present to all who continue to stay put in their homes for their protection. Even when we cannot receive the Eucharist, we can say in the words of today’s responsorial psalm, ‘Taste and see that the Lord is good”.
This was the experience of Saint Paul as well, the other great pillar of the church. In today’s second reading, he writes from prison, fully expecting that he may not get out alive, ‘the time has come for me to be gone”. It was a very isolating experience for him. He writes in a verse omitted from our reading, ‘all deserted me”. Yet, like Peter, he experienced the Lord’s powerful presence.
As he says in today’s reading, “the Lord stood by me and gave me power”, and he goes on, ‘the Lord will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom’. Like Peter, he experienced the Lord’s sustaining presence when he was at his weakest and most isolated. This is one of the lessons these two great preachers of the gospel can teach us today.
The Lord comes to us in our times of weakness and stands by us in our moments of isolation. No matter what distressing situation we may find ourselves in, the Lord is with us to strengthen and sustain us. Even when we are cut off from those who matter most to us, we are never cut off from the Lord, because he is always true to his name of Emmanuel, ‘God with us’.
That is why, in the words of today’s psalm, every moment of every day, we can “look towards him and be radiant”.
Fr. John Peter
Happy feast to all Peters, Pauls, Paulines, Petras, Paulinas etc….