Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Jesus Befriends Us
Last year at Evening Prayer I in the Roman Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, Pope Benedict preached a surprise:
[Christ Jesus] needs witnesses and martyrs like St Paul. Paul, a former violent persecutor of Christians, ...did not hesitate to change sides to the Crucified One and followed him without second thoughts. He lived and worked for Christ, for him he suffered and died. How timely his example is today! [then the surprise]St. Paul and St. Peter together have been honored as the founders and patrons of the Church of Rome for nearly all those centuries.
And for this very reason I am pleased to announce officially that we shall be dedicating a special Jubilee Year to the Apostle Paul from 28 June 2008 to 29 June 2009, on the occasion of the bimillennium of his birth, which historians have placed between the years 7 and 10 A.D.
It will be possible to celebrate this “Pauline Year” in a privileged way in Rome where the sarcophagus which, by the unanimous opinion of experts and an undisputed tradi-tion, preserves the remains of the Apostle Paul...beneath the Papal Altar of this Basilica for 20 centuries./1/
Both of them witnessed effectively because Jesus’ risen life--in shorthand, “grace”-- transformed their weaknesses into strength and allowed each to overcome his resistance to Jesus to become channels of faithful living for us.
While each of us is to witness by our lives to our crucified and risen Messiah Jesus, we are not clones of either St. Paul or St. Peter. However, like Saints Peter and Paul, a personal relationship with Jesus is the foundation for becoming a faithful witness to Jesus.
Relationship with Jesus, specifically “Friendship with Christ” Jesus has been the Pope’s Prayer Intention this month of June. Many of us have been praying it: May “all Christians...cultivate a deep and personal friendship with Christ so to communicate the strength of his love to every person they meet.”/2/
Jesus befriends us. We may not think so, but Jesus befriends us. He called his disciples in the Gospel of John friends, and all four gospels portrayed Jesus befriending everyone, especially those others would not.
How does Jesus befriend us? Jesus “help[s] us to know our own weakness”--as he did St. Peter when he warned Peter that he would betray Jesus, and St. Paul when he revealed his risen self to Paul when Paul tried to exterminate followers of Jesus--“and to rejoice in [his] saving power.”/3/ Jesus “help[s] us know our own weakness and to rejoice in [his] saving power.”
Friends are in good positions to alert us to our ways, which need to change. Often friends know us better than we know ourselves, a reason to rejoice and feel saved. If our friends assist us to live more integral and more effective lives, then how much more does Jesus reshape us and really save us and make us his disciples in our contemporary world?
Because Jesus befriends us and because we aren’t clones of Saints Peter and Paul, each of us is responsible to search and explore each one’s faith-friendship with Jesus in order to know in a felt way how it shapes us and how Jesus welcomes us to be his witnesses throughout our lifetimes.
In your 15 minutes with Jesus this week, feel the Trinity recreate you lovingly in the divine image. Ask Saints Peter and Paul to present you to Jesus so that you may converse with him. Praise Jesus, who befriends you and transforms you. Thank Jesus, who welcomes you to be his ambassador. Ask Jesus to help you learn him better so you may “lead others to [him] by the manner of your life.”/4/ Close by saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer, by which Jesus befriends us and shapes us to befriend others in his name.
/1/ Papal homily, Evening Prayer I, Solemnity, Ss. Peter and Paul, 28 June 2007.
/2/ Monthly Prayer Intentions of Pope Benedict are available online, and Gesu parish makes them available at the doors of the church each month.
/3/ Prayer Over the Gifts, Mass, Vigil of Ss. Peter and Paul.
/4/ Prayer Over the People, Mass During the Day of Ss. Peter and Paul.
Wiki-image by Alberto Fernandez Fernandez of the front of St. Paul Outside the Walls is used according to the GFDL. Wiki-image of risen Jesus with Ss. Peter and Paul is in the public domain.