Homily: Don’t Settle for Pennies

We remember today Saints Peter and Paul who guided the early church just after the time of Jesus. Both died as martyrs for the faith in Rome, in the early 60’s, just thirty years after the death of Jesus.

Each of these two saints is important for different reasons. Peter is important because he was the first Pope and kept the church united which was growing very rapidly in the years following Pentecost. In the first years after Pentecost it was Jews who accepted Jesus as the Savior and so the early church was a very Jewish church. But as time went on Paul began to preach also to non-Jews, the Gentiles as they were called. All of us are Gentiles. His preaching was very successful and he brought huge numbers of non-Jews into the church, so much so that the number of Jews in the church was greatly outnumbered by non-Jews.

It is interesting to note the personalities of both Peter and Paul. Peter was impetuous, telling Jesus that he would die with him on Holy Thursday night if necessary (John 13:37) but later that night he denied he knew him. Yet what made Peter a suitable candidate for Jesus’ call was his love, so three times Jesus asked him if he loved him and asked him to look after the flock.

Paul was a controversial character in his own way. He had a fiery personality. In his early life he channeled that fire towards persecuting the Christians in Jerusalem,

Why did God call Paul? Paul was a highly educated Pharisee and it would be only someone like him who could see that faith in Jesus demanded a totally new relationship with God for Jews, and also he had a very strong personality which he needed to help the Jews to accept that Jesus was the Savior of all peoples, and that because of Jesus there is no difference between Jew and non-Jew. Paul had the strong personality needed for that daring challenge and the insight to see that faith in Jesus the fulfillment of their Old Testament hopes was now required for salvation

Our first reading today tells us of a very beautiful miracle took place In the very early days of the Church after Pentecost. There was a man who was a cripple from birth and people used to put him every day at one of the entrances to the temple in Jerusalem so that he could beg. He saw Peter and John going into the temple and begged from them. He was expecting to get something from them. Peter said to him, “I have neither silver nor gold, but what I have, I will give you; in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene walk.” Then they took him by the right hand and helped him up, and instantly his feet and ankles became firm, so he jumped up, stood and began to walk and run and jump, and he went with Peter and John into the temple praising God.

Maybe sometimes we are like that beggar, settling for too little, begging for pennies when there is so much more that God wants to give us. Maybe sometimes we get lost during life counting the pennies, when God has plans for us to walk and jump and praise him. Maybe even the whole Church settles for too little like the beggar, while God has plans for much more. That beggar was unchanging and unquestioning. That beggar met the love of God and was changed forever. If we too could really believe in the love e of God for us, we too would be changed forever and then we would walk and jump and praise God. It is hard to believe that God could love us so much, and has such great plans for you. But it is true. Beliee in God’s love for you, to become what God has planned for you. That beggar was settling for pennies, but God wanted to give him millions. God wants to give you millions too. Don’t settle for pennies.

When we see a job advertised we are asked to submit our résumé. We try to submit an impressive résumé because we know that some of those who submit impressive resumes or résumés will be called for an interview. If we are called for the interview we try to impress during the interview.

What kind of resume would you need to have in order to be asked to be the first Pope? What type of questions would you be asked during the interview? Peter was interviewed by Jesus in the Gospel excerpt we heard today and asked three questions, “Do you love \me?” His resume wasn’t good; he had denied Jesus three times by a charcoal fire on Holy Thursday night. Peter did not find it easy to accept himself after that. When the cock crew later that evening, Peter wept. He realized his failure. He could not cope with it, could not accept it and he wept. He hit rock bottom.

You would not expect Jesus to even consider him for the position of looking after the flock. But Jesus could see his heart and knew he was the man for the job. Why? Because Peter was different to Judas. Peter grew through his mistake whereas Judas allowed his mistake to conquer him. Peter reformed himself after his mistake but Judas was not man enough to reform himself. Peter knew what it was to be human, so too did Judas, but whereas Peter moved on from his sinfulness Judas did not. Three times Peter had denied Jesus by a charcoal fire on Holy Thursday evening but now three times by a different charcoal fire on this Easter day Jesus asks Peter to look after the sheep. Jesus forgave Peter and had confidence in him to make him Pope.

Despite our sinfulness Jesus forgives us and has confidence in us. Jesus does not lock us in by mistakes of the past or present. We are given room to outgrow the mistakes of the past. Paul wrote, “for anyone who is in Christ, there is a new creation; the old creation has gone, and now the new one is here.

What happened to Peter can happen to us also if we have the faith to accept God’s love and forgiveness. Jesus forgives us in the Sacrament of Reconciliation and loves us after we have denied him, after we have disbelieved, after we have given up, after we have sinned. It takes an act of faith to believe in God, and it takes an act of faith to believe that God forgives us and loves us after we repent of our sin. Sometimes faith is the courage to accept God’s love, the courage to accept God’s forgiveness and acceptance of ourselves. Peter recovered his faith after his despair; he was able to say “Yes Lord, you know that I love you.” We do not allow the past to overcome us like Judas. Instead Peter is our model for repentance and reforming ourselves and allowing the Lord to put us to work for Him again.  (© Fr. Tommy Lane 2013)

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