February 25, 2018 Homily

By | September 11, 2019

First of all if you would, keep our
deacons in your prayers this week they are on retreat we are Deacon-less for
the weekend. It’s a wonderful tradition here in the Diocese of Tulsa and that is
the deacons go on retreat and their wives go as well and so it’s a beautiful
time of just a fellowship and spiritual renewal so they’re over at the Subiaco
monastery in in Arkansas. Keep them in your prayers. I want to tell you the
story about St. Peter. we know a lot about him and from the scriptures. What
the scriptures don’t tell us, though, is what happened to St. Peter after he got
to Rome and beyond. We heard just a moment ago that Peter, James and John were up on the mountain and Jesus was transfigured before them. He
was shown to them as in glory- dazzling white. Then Peter says something very profound.
He says, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here. Let us build three tents. ” There’s
the sense upon Peter of this is so good Lord can we just stay here? Now we know that Peter did not stay. We know that Peter came down from the mountain,
James and John came down from the mountain, and they went out as
missionaries just as Jesus had told them. Peter went to Rome. When we think about
Rome today we think of a bustling city, the Coliseum, a lot of beautiful churches.
Rome in the first century was a very, very different place. Peter went there to
proclaim the good news and there a Christian community began with Peter as
their leader. We know from the Gospels, the Gospel of Matthew specifically
chapter 16, where Jesus says you are Peter and upon this rock I will build my
church and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it. And he says to Peter,
I will give you the keys to the kingdom. So a lot of times when you see Peter,
including in our new church, we have the beautiful statue of Saint Peter that
you’ll see very soon. And there he is and he’s holding keys. If you look at the
Vatican flag, it’s got two big keys on it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom.
So Peter goes to Rome and this Christian community starts to flourish. The issue
that they faced is that Christianity was illegal. It was illegal, actually, for the
first three centuries that Christians were around. The Emperor Nero in that
first century made it very difficult to be a Christian. Many people had to go
underground. They would have Church in people’s houses in the middle of the
night to avoid the authorities But Peter proclaimed the good news and he did it
publicly and it got him in trouble. And so eventually, Nero had had enough of
Peter had him arrested and had him put to death. The story goes that when Peter
died they were going to crucify him just like Jesus. As an act of humiliation as
an act to say your savior means nothing to us we’re going to put you to death in
the same way as him. The story goes that as Peter was about to be put up on the
cross he made a very profound statement. He said I’m not worthy to die in the
same way as my Savior; turn me upside down.
And they did and so Peter was crucified feet in the air and his head near the
ground. Now , to die on a cross is an excruciating thing and it takes a little
while. We know from the Gospels that Jesus spent three hours on the cross;
most other people spent longer. So Peter dies on this cross very near
where the current Vatican is. In fact, inside what we now know as the Vatican
City State. And Peter died and so his disciples that early Christian community
they wanted to give their leader, our first pope, they wanted to give him a
proper burial. And so the story goes that in the middle of the night, they went to
the place where he died and there he was on the cross and in order to expedite
things to get him down off the cross quickly so they would not be caught. They
chopped off his feet and they took his body – the feet and they buried him. they
buried him on a hill very near where he died the hill was then as it was now was
called the Vatican Hill so Peter was buried and as early Christians began to
die off they wanted to be buried near their leader. And so around Peter’s tomb
there began to be this Christian graveyard right on the Vatican Hill as
people died they would be buried there and so this Christian Cemetery developed. Over time it grew and grew. Over time,
Christianity grew and grew until in the third century when the Emperor
Constantine made Christianity legal for the first time, and Constantine wanted a
church built on the tomb of St. Peter. And so there went the first St. Peter’s
Basilica- not the one we have now, but the first version. And that lasted for about
twelve hundred years. Twelve hundred years went by, and it fell into disrepair
and a new one was built and that’s the one we know now with the big dome where
the popes are buried. Where all the big catholic papal stuff happens. And it’s
built on the tomb of St. Peter. Fast forward to the 1930s. There was an effort made to try to find somewhere down there among all of these graves among all of
these bones let’s find the bones of St. Peter. And so this excavation took place
in the middle of the night because they were afraid as the Nazis began to
move in to Italy, that Hitler would find out and Hitler would get in there and
want to get those bones. And so as they dug and dug and dug through all of these
bones all of these early Christians buried beneath this church, they
eventually found a box. And on that box it was written in Greek Petrus Ani “Peter
inside” And so they went in, they found those
bones, and they did studies on them. And what they found was the bones of a about
a 70 year old man of large build. Remember that Peter was a fisherman. And they put all the bones out and they found all the bones except no feet.
the bones of St. Peter is where St. Peter’s basilica is now built. So if you
go to Rome today, right below the papal altar- the main high altar, you go down
about 75 feet, what you’ll find there in a wonderful display, are the bones of
our first pope. Pretty amazing stuff. I tell you that story when we hear the
transfiguration because those bones, what they represent for us, is that Peter was
a missionary. Peter went from Jerusalem 1,500 miles to Rome to proclaim the good
news. Now a lot of the Apostles did. Thomas went to India, Andrew to Ethiopia,
James to Spain. The Apostles spread far and wide so that the Gospel could be
spread. But what if Peter, James, and John had
found that mountain so good that they just stayed there? Who could blame them?
On this mountain we saw Jesus glorified. We saw Jesus transfigured in all of his
splendor. We wouldn’t blame them for wanting to stay there. But they didn’t
stay. They went down the mountain so that they could be missionaries to the world.
Thanks be to God for us! Maybe bad for them, they all died as martyrs. Good for
us that the good news was proclaimed and it reached us. I tell you that story in
light of what’s happening right here in our own hometown. We are very near to a
major transition in the life of the Stillwater Catholic community. Just two
weeks from now- two weeks from about a half-hour from now, we’re gonna begin the
dedication of a new church. That brings with it a whole host of emotions. I think
for many people, an immense joy, very proud. Wow look at what we’ve done! Look
where we get to worship! I think for a lot of people some relief that it’s over.
Finally we’ve been working on this for years and talking about it for years and
now it’s finally come to a conclusion. I’ve heard a lot of stories about the
joy of two communities merging together the community of Saint Francis Xavier
and the community of Saint John coming together under one roof for the first
time in a long time. I’ve also heard stories of sadness. I don’t want to go. I
like it here. I was married in this church, my family was buried in this
church, I was baptized in this church. And all of that is good. All of that is
legitimate. The challenge I want to issue to all of
us, is that we are about to embark on something really interesting but also a
little scary. Peter, James, and John would have loved to just stay up on that
mountain. It would have been very comfortable. It would have been very good
and who could blame them? But they didn’t. They came down from that
mountain. They ventured out and what it brought about was something glorious. It
brought about the conversion of thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions
of people. And I think the same is true for us. We embarked on something unknown.
What will it be like out there? I always sit in the third row on the edge. What if
someone from St. John sits there too? There’s all these kind of unknowns of
what’s gonna happen when we get out there. But what I want us to embrace is
the adventure of it all. Yes it’s unknown. Yes we don’t know
exactly how it’s all gonna happen and what’s gonna happen when we get there.
But I am very confident that if we trust that the Lord is in charge, we heard if
the God is for us who can be against us? If we know that the Lord is in
charge of what is happening here that if the Holy Spirit is really guiding us
then what happens out there is going to be something amazing. You know better
than I do the number of people who drive by that place every day and for the
first time in their life just because they’re curious they’re gonna step foot
into a Catholic Church. And you know what? You’re gonna be the one to show them
around. You’re gonna be the one to show them the statues of Peter, James and John.
You’re gonna be the one to show them the crucifix. You’re gonna be the one to
maybe even explain to them the significance of the altar, the Ambo, the
tabernacle. What’s in there? It’s going to be a beautiful opportunity
for evangelization like we have never seen before. Scary yeah, adventurous yeah.
The same was true for Peter, James, and John that came down from that mountain
and look what came about. The great spread of our Christian faith. So I urge
you and I say this as much to myself to trust in the Lord especially in these
next few weeks. We have a lot of work to do. There’s a lot of uncertainty, but we
make this move, my hope is, with great faith and trust that the Lord is in
charge. We do it as Peter did, venturing out into the unknown knowing that what
will come of it will be better than we have. It is good that we are here, but
together and with faith in Christ I think what is to come will be better. We
trust that the Lord will guide us. We trust that the Eucharist will strengthen
us today and into the future

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