12th Sunday Ordinary Time A

“Sharing the cup of the Lord’s suffering”

The diocese of Rome, Italy, is called the “apostolic see” because it was at Rome that Peter and Paul preached the Faith, and it was at Rome that they were martyred. “By sharing the cup of the Lord’s suffering,” says today’s entrance antiphon, “they became the friends of God.”

Jesus had predicated Peter’s eventual capture and execution on the same day that He gave him charge over his sheep and lambs. “When you are older,” he told Peter, “you will stretch out your hands, and another will tie you fast and carry you off against your will.” (John 21:18-19). History testifies to Peter’s death on a cross – a cross set upside down in the earth because Peter felt he did not deserve to die in exactly the same way his Master had.

In addition to a few historical evidences of St. Peter’s death, there are also some purely legendary ones. Especially touching is the Quo Vadis legend, which dates from around 200 AD.

According to this story, one of Peter’s Roman converts was Xantippe, wife of the pagan Roman magistrate Agrippa. Albinus, a friend of Emperor Nero, urged Agrippa to seize and execute Peter as leader of the hated Christians. Xantippe, learning of the proposal, hastened to warn Peter. She and other leading Roman Christians urged him to escape from Rome.

“Shall we be put to flight, brother?” Peter asked sternly. Was he to play the coward?

“No,” they insisted, “but that you maybe able still to serve the Lord.” Peter thought awhile and saw their point, But he would not allow them to accompany him. “Let no one of you depart with me, but I will go out alone, for I have changed my purpose.”

However, Peter had not got far outside Rome’s Appian gate when he suddenly saw Jesus walking the Appian Way towards Rome.

“Lord,” cried Peter, “Where are you going?” (Domine, quo vadis?)

Jesus answered, “I am going to Rome to be crucified.” “But, Lord,” Peter replied, “Were you not crucified once?”

The Master replied, “I saw that you were fleeing from death, and I am willing to be crucified in your stead.”

Peter got the point. “Lord, I will go. I will do your bidding.”

“Fear not,” Jesus reassured him, “for I am with you.” Then He vanished. Peter returned to Rome, no longer confused or fearful, but joyful. He knew that the time had come for Christ’s prophecy about him to be fulfilled.

So it was the cross for Peter. He who had fled from Christ’s Calvary found his own Calvary on Vatican Hill.

-Father Robert F. McNamara

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Q324: Why was Jeremiah hated and persecuted so much (Jer 20:10-13)? Wasn’t he what we could call a “man of God”?

There is an old saying you have heard which says: “You are what you eat.” It has a lot to say about both habit and character, at both the physical and spiritual levels. If we overeat, it is probably because of an unhealthy “habit” or eating disorder. It is also an indication that a “vice” has a grip on us, rather than a “virtue” – and our resistance to “change” indicates how strong that grip really is. We “choose” our own consequences.

The prophet Jeremiah encountered resistance to his teaching and preaching. He carried a message that people did not want to hear: to beware, because disaster was coming to the entire country, unless they changed their ways and returned to God. The religious leaders, the political leaders, and even his friends and family turned against him for preaching that prophetic message. But it was God’s message; and the people refused to repent of their wickedness. Accordingly, they effectively “chose” their own consequences and were carried away into captivity when Jerusalem was destroyed.

Both the First Reading and the Gospel (Mt 10:26-33) have the same message: do not fear anyone, but trust in God and follow his teachings: the eternal soul is much more important than the body! If you do not believe and proclaim His word of truth, then He will not acknowledge you either, on judgment day.

KNOW YOUR CATECHISM! The ecumenical council Vatican II officially taught: “In matters of faith and morals, the bishops speak in the name of Christ and the faithful are to accept their teaching and adhere to it with a religious assent” (Lumen Gentium 25; CCC#892). Will you reject this Magisterium, these “men of God,” just as Jeremiah’s contemporaries rejected him, and face the consequences? What is your real character and habitual mode of thinking on issues of Church teaching? Beware!

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Q481: Doesn’t today’s gospel makes it sound like it is quite hazardous for me to live a truly Christian life in its fullness?

The all-important context for today’s gospel (Matt 10:26-33) is the missionary instruction that Jesus is giving to the twelve apostles. Jesus is firm in his assertion that persecution and division will be their lot. This will come from “outsiders” who do not accept Jesus, and even “insiders” within their own families (as well as those who claim to be followers of Jesus but still believe and live like pagans). Not once does Jesus even hint that being his disciple will be an easy task.

Three times in today’s short pericope Jesus tells the apostles not to be afraid. He wants them to focus on their soul, not their body. You can’t be an instrument of God if you are constantly living in fear of danger to your body. And only God can kill the soul. Then he turns to simple images, so that they will get the point. God knows exactly how many hairs you have on your head, whether many or few. Not only that, he knows what is happening even before a dying sparrow hits the ground. The point? God cares about everything, and especially he cares about you! The incarnation is proof of that! This is why Jesus can say three times, “fear not”!

This is the same message he gave the Old Testament prophets, so that they could be his instruments. For example, to Jeremiah he said “Have no fear…I am with you…” (Jer 1:8). In many places in the gospel Jesus reminds his listeners that the prophets had been persecuted (an illustration is in the First Reading, Jer 20:10-13). Now he tells the apostles that they can expect the same thing. The message continues to be true for any disciple thereafter: to be a follower of the way, the truth, and the life means that you can expect to be treated just as Jesus and the prophets were treated. It may not be an easy job, but you have Jesus with you at all times.

KNOW YOUR CATECHISM! Once again Jesus asks for childlike abandonment to the providence of God, undoubtedly more difficult in the face of persecution (CCC #305). There will never be a period in history when the Church doesn’t undergo some form of persecution somewhere in the world; we must be prepared to witness to and about Christ in every circumstance (CCC #1816).

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