3 Thoughts on Why Peter and Paul Share the Same Feast Day

Early on the history of the Catholic Church an admiration existed for Peter and Paul. Aside of Jesus Christ himself, these two men are the main characters in the New Testament. In his First Epistle to the Corinthians, church leader Clement of Rome tells of the leadership of Peter and Peter. He wrote,

There was Peter who by reason of unrighteous jealousy endured not one not one but many labors, and thus having borne his testimony went to his appointed place of glory. By reason of jealousy and strife Paul by his example pointed out the prize of patient endurance. After that he had been seven times in bonds, had been driven into exile, had been stoned, had preached in the East and in the West, he won the noble renown which was the reward of his faith, having taught righteousness unto the whole world and having reached the farthest bounds of the West; and when he had borne his testimony before the rulers, so he departed from the world and went unto the holy place, having been found a notable pattern of patient endurance. Unto these men of holy lives was gathered a vast multitude of the elect, who through many indignities and tortures, being the victims of jealousy, set a brave example among ourselves (First Epistle of Clement of Rome to the Corinthians 5:4-6:1).

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Living in the 1st century A.D., Clement’s praise of the first leaders of the Church is evidence that something special changed these men. God selected a simple fisherman and a reformed murderer to head the Catholic Church. I believe the Holy Spirit guided the Church to forever link these two saints lives through having the same feast day on June 29th.

Creativity of Truth [St. Paul]

Having the ability to think outside the box and preach to vastly different audiences is a gift. St. Paul possessed both creativity and the flexibility to frame his thoughts to fit the needs and understanding of his particular audiences. Writer of almost 2/3 of the New Testament, St. Paul represents the creative aspect of the Catholic faith. He brings to the table dynamic, vibrant, creative theology to teach Christians in the early Church and today.

The Apostle of the Gentile used many tangible and relatable examples to teach the faith. One of my personal favorites comes from 1 Corinthians 12. Paul clearly and succinctly communicates the fact that unity is found within diversity. He provides the analogy of the Church consisting of one body with many parts and Jesus Christ as the ultimate head of the body. Another clear and understandable example of the love and teaching of God is St. Paul’s frequent references to Christians as adopted children of God. In Romans 8:14-17 he writes, “For those who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.j 15For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption, through which we cry, “Abba,* Father!”k 16The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,l 17and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.”

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Stability of Truth [St. Peter]

Unlike Paul who represents the intellectual, creative, and theological side of truth, Peter is a model for the consistency and enduring nature of

Catholic teaching. Jesus instituted the papacy in Matthew 16:17-19. According to the evangelist the charge to the future pope went as follows,

Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood* has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. 18k And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church,* and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. 19l I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven.* Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

The lead up to this significant institutional passage is Peter’s realization of Jesus’ true identity is the Christ. Through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, Peter led the Catholic Church after Jesus’ ascension to Heaven. He led the Council of Jerusalem in Acts 15 and displayed the ultimate mark of faith in his martyrdom. The papacy continues to be an office guided by the Holy Spirit by which unites Christianity and acts as the supreme authority on matters related to faith and morality.

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Analogy of Tetherball

Truth is unchanging but our understanding of truth developed over the centuries. The genius of the Catholic Church is apparent in the consolidation of Peter and Paul’s feast on a single day. There is a schoolyard game that comes to mind to describe the relationship between the first pope and the great Apostle to the Gentiles—tetherball! Incidentally, it was not until my early twenties that I discovered the joy and fun this recess game provide despite its simplistic nature. I even purchased a tetherball at my local sporting goods store in hopes to eventually install a tetherball post in my background.

To get back from my tetherball tangent, the post in this game reminds me of the stability that the papacy of St. Peter provides. The ball and rope represent the creative theology of

St. Paul. Both are essential aspects of the game [and the Catholic faith]. Without the stability of the papacy, truth devolves into subjectivity and confusion ensues. Likewise, an absence of dynamic theological thought [represented by Paul] leads to staleness, rigidity, and irrelevancy of Catholic teaching. Remember kids recess is an important subject in school too—you never know when you can apply lessons from leisure to real life!

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I find no more appropriate way of closing my thoughts on these holy individuals than to cite the words of the successor of Peter. Pope Francis on June 29th, 2017 stated, “The Fathers of the Church liked to compare the holy apostles Peter and Paul to two columns, on which the visible building of the Church rests. Both sealed with their own blood their testimony to Christ of preaching and service to the nascent Christian community.”

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The Wondrous Eucharist—Guest Post

On June 23 we celebrated Corpus Christi Sunday, and what a great day it was.  Though we celebrate the liturgy of the Eucharist everyday at Mass, there is a tendency to get complacent.  This seems to be our human nature, because if we do something enough we tend to go through the motions.

Eucharist

On this day the church asks us to take a step back and take a moment to remember what an awesome gift the Eucharist is.  In honor of this, I also want to take a step back to look at what scripture and the early church tells us about the blessed sacrament.

Though some terms for the Eucharist developed over time, the belief of what the Eucharist is has been around since New Testament times.  Jesus gave a speech that we call the Bread of Life Discourse in which he says that unless we eat his flesh and drink his blood that we have no life within us (John 6:53).  The synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke give us the words of institution that we hear so often (Matthew 26:17-30, Mark 14:12-26, and Luke 22:7-39).

In Summary of these Jesus tells us to eat the bread and says “This is my body”.  Then he took the cup of wine and “This is the cup of my blood that was given for you”.  Notice how our Lord says “this is” and not that it is merely a symbolic action?

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The real presence of Christ in the Eucharist is one that held true in the doctrine of the early church.  The big heresy going around in the first couple centuries of the church was Gnosticism.  The Gnostics believes that all matter was evil, and as such Jesus himself didn’t actually die on the cross.  Since all matter was deemed evil by the Gnostics, the Eucharist was something that was unfathomable?  After all, if matter were evil, then there was no way that the bread and wine can transform into the body and blood of Christ.

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The early church fathers understood the gnostic line of thinking and used the Eucharist as a way to refute them.  In approximately 107 A.D. St. Ignatius of Antioch writes in his letter to the Smyrneans, “They [the Gnostics] abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they confess not the Eucharist to be the flesh of our Saviour Jesus Christ, which suffered for our sins, and which the Father, of His goodness, raised up again”.

Justin Martyr, writing around 150 A.D., states that the bread and wine changes to the body and blood of Christ upon the prayer of the priest.  In his great work titled Against Heresies, St. Irenaeus writes “the bread, which is produced from the earth, when it receives the invocation of God, is no longer common bread, but the Eucharist.”

There are many other such quotes like this span for several centuries.  One such quote comes from St. John Chrystostom who died in 407 A.D.  Describing the Eucharist the great saint states, “How many of you say: I should like to see His face, His garments, His shoes. You do see Him, you touch Him, you eat Him. He gives Himself to you, not only that you may see Him, but also to be your food and nourishment.”

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These quotes go on and on, and through them we see that the teaching of the church from the beginning is that the Eucharist is the body and blood of Christ.  At this point you are probably wondering why I am quoting all these great saints.  Friends, my heart hurts.  For every one person that enters the Catholic church, there are six people who leave.  Why would they leave such a great gift such as the Eucharist?  When I ask those that leave, their answers range from the sexual abuse scandal to a disagreement with a priest.  However, a majority that I have spoken to leave because they do not believe what the church teaches about the Eucharist.  Some didn’t even know the church’s teaching.

Perhaps we have taken this great sacrament for granted and our actions no longer show the reverence it deserves.  Perhaps some have just been poorly catechized. Maybe it is both.  I urge you my friends to take a moment to reflect on the greatness that is the Eucharist.  The very gift of himself that our Lord gives us to nourish and strengthen us.  May we never take it for granted and show it the reverence it deserves.


About our guest blogger:

William is a convert to the Catholic faith.  Before entering the church he was ordained as a Baptist and Lutheran and earned a Master of Divinity from Liberty Theological Seminary.  William lives with his wife and four children in Tucson, AZ and teaches religious education for children and adults.  Check out his website/blog at williamhemsworth.com for more great and informative Catholic content!

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Reconciling Free Will with God’s Omniscience: Evidence from C.S. Lewis and My Life

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Does free will exist if God is all-knowing? Does God lack omniscience if free will for humanity exists? Questions such as these have flummoxed philosophers since the inception of philosophic thought! Fatalism is the belief that human actions happen through necessity and as a result humans ultimately lack free will. Upon initially hearing this argument as a new student to philosophy I too developed angst. How do I reconcile the Christian assertion of free will with God’s omniscience? For if a being is not omniscient the being cannot be God and if human freedom is a façade—Christianity is a sinister masquerade.

Opponents to Christianity may look at my stance so far with euphoria. Here a Catholic man admitting his struggles to reconcile basic Christian philosophy. I would tell any adversary that such triumph is premature.  Through the lucid writing of C.S. Lewis, specifically his work Mere Christianity, and my own humble experiences in my nascent fatherhood I learned it is possible to reconcile the apparent Catch-22 between free will and divine omniscience!

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Light from Lewis

Mere Christianity was a book that I read after taking several theology courses. Yet surprisingly, instead of acting as a mere introductory and basic level of Christianity, C.S. Lewis managed to shed light on the looming battle over the omniscience of God versus the freedom of mankind. In the chapter titled Time and Beyond Time, Lewis put forth an incredibly simple and insightful example to describe God’s relation to time and space. He states, “Almost certainly God is not in Time. His life does not consist of moments following one another…If you picture Time as a straight line along which we have to travel, then you must picture God as the whole page on which the line is drawn”(Mere Christianity 167-168).

If you look in the above picture the blue arrow represents all of time and space. In other words the whole of the universe and reality as we know and experience is represented on that line. God is so above our comprehension that He is represented as “existing” on the rest of the page [see image above]. The Incarnation of Jesus Christ took place in a specific place on the line of time and space but God still remains above, below, outside of time while still being able to take on human flesh and live in time and space for 33 years!

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Later on in the chapter Lewis acknowledges the same difficulty I put forth at the beginning of this post—how do we reconcile God’s omniscience with human free will? According to him, “Everyone who believes in God at all believes that He knows what you and I are going to do tomorrow. But if He knows I am going to do so-and-so, how can I be free to do otherwise? Well, here once again, the difficulty comes from thinking God is progressing along the Time-line like us: the only difference being the He can see ahead and we cannot…But suppose God is outside and above the Time-line. In that case, what we call ‘tomorrow’ is visible to Him in just the same way as what we call ‘today’. All the days are ‘Now’ for Him” (Mere Christianity p. 170)

Clarity from My Children

 Together with the insight Lewis gave me on the issue of reconciling God’s foreknowledge with free will, my experience as a father schooled me on this issue as well. Let me explain. I have learned that as my children continue to grow I have become aware of their preferences and likes. Once I asked my oldest son if he wanted a animal crackers or a cheese stick for his evening snack. I had a foreknowledge that my son would select the cheese stick because I know that is his preference [AND YES HE DID CHOOSE THE COLBY-JACK CHEESE STICK J]. Another time I asked my daughter if she wanted to watch Frozen or Moana. I knew the answer was the latter and she choose that movie for that day.

Despite my foreknowledge of their choice I did not stop my son’s and daughter’s freedom to choose. In a more deeper and intimate way God as our Father knows us better that I know my children. God already knows our deepest longings and loves us so much that He allows free will to take place.

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Both Lewis’ example and my paternal experiences helped me reconcile the seeming chasm between God’s omniscience and human free will. While these examples ultimately fall short in explaining the nature of God’s omniscience I am still at peace with these explanations. I realize that I am a mere part of creation and my Creator is infinitely greater and more loving than I may possibly imagine. This endless wonder and awe about God is a gift. Let us not quiver at the omniscience of God but joyfully ponder it every day!

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The Power of Gratitude

Today started out much like a normal day. I woke up. Ate breakfast. Got ready for work. Arriving at work, I encountered a lot of negativity. Frustration from customers. Lack of understanding from co-workers. Dullness, dreariness, pessimism besieged me.

Pessimism

My ego weakened and trust damaged I felt like giving up. Something provoked me to pause. Wait. Think it through. To fight back.

Gratitude caused me to push back against the negativity. Pulling out a post-it notes I quickly jotted a ton of things (ability to write, family, life, job, pens, calculator). Most of these were blessings immediately in front of me. I soon relearned that I have much to be thankful.

Stopping to reflect on my blessings put distance between myself and the negativity. Recognizing all the things large and small I have to be grateful for proved to be the turning point in my day.

Gratitude

Gratitude is the greatest weapon to defeat negativity. If you are encountering pessimism daily, at work or home, please don’t despair. Think about the blessings in your life great and small. Thanksgiving will help dispel the storm.

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3 Reasons Why Containing Creativity is Impossible

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Mark Twain wrote, “Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.” Recently, the “greatest American humorist” has showed up in a lot of my posts. His wit and eccentricity defy convention.  Boundless creativity define Twain and other classic writers.

Is this it in Life?

Sitting in my cubicle at my bank job got me thinking quite seriously about creativity, self-reflection, and life in general. During a long span between inbound calls, I gazed across the floor and noticed something—more accurately the absence of something. Perhaps it is the drudgery work, but I realized, my job does not reward creativity. Compliance, uniformity, and procedural elements dominate the world of finance. “Is this what life is truly meant to be?” I pondered.

Instructed to work within the limits of law, policy, and procedure, I learned that I cannot be free to create—new ideas, content, strategies, or even share best practices. Although I enjoy order, working in a solely unimaginative environment stymies my creative side. Along with my desire to evangelize and educate others on the Catholic faith, my primary motivation for writing was to satiate my creative thirst. Creativity cannot be contained. It may be limited and temporarily tempered, but it can never be truly contained.

Uniqueness Defeats Conformity

Uniqueness

Influenced by my faith and personal experience as a father to special needs children, I place high value toward individuality. My sons require an individualized education plan (IEP) to best succeed in school. Human beings are not meant to be uniform. We should celebrate our differences, strengths and limitations all together! Authentic diversity actually leads to true unity. This is best summed up in the Catholic Church.

St. Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 12 speaks of the importance of the uniqueness of the Body of Christ. United by Christ the diversity of the members is graced with the ability to work for the greater good.

Beyond Limits

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Another reason that containing creativity is impossible is because creation by its nature is limitless. French philosopher Albert Camus purported, “All great deeds and all great thoughts have a ridiculous beginning.” Creating art, language, music, and technology starts with the mentality of the limitless. The greatest act of creation, that formation of the Universe via the Big Bang, seems absurd. Creation out of nothing. Genesis 1 tells us  God created the formed the universe ex nihilo!

The Supreme Creator God definitely cannot be contained or limited. That would be contrary to God’s nature. However, that is a grandiose example of creativity. Even on a lesser scale, creation cannot be bound. My 5 year old daughter uses her imaginative and sees beyond the ordinary in everything. A rock becomes a “piece of chocolate”. Cardboard boxes become animals. Sticks become “silverware”. Pages and pages of drawings populate our kitchen table, bookshelves, and dresser tops. Maya Angelou describes the limitless nature of creativity perfectly when she said, “You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.”

Creativity Attracts

Creativity is Contagious, Pass it On

Along with the unique and boundless quality of creativity a third reason why imagination cannot be contained is due it is spread so easily. According to Albert Einstein, “Creativity is contagious. Pass it on.” Opposites attract. Creativity attracts exponentially more! Great imaginative minds never exist on their own. J.R.R. Tolkien attracted C.S. Lewis and vice versa.

Together they transformed literature in the 20th century. John Lennon and Paul McCartney collaborated to bring the world amazing music. The Wright brothers worked together to innovate transportation by developing the first airplane.

Whenever I feel my creativity spirit drying up I look to the creative individuals to reignite my creativity. Reading Tolkien, Lewis, G.K. Chesterton, and the doctors of the Church such as Catherine of Siena and Teresa of Avila brings forth creativity. Creativity elicits more creativity.

If you are a writer stuck in an imaginative idleness, please don’t despair. It is natural to experience periods of droughts, but creativity is never truly lost or fully contained. Seek out other creative individuals (both past and present) and learn from their works. Creativity lead to creativity. Embrace your uniqueness. Don’t try to be anyone else expect yourself. You have a 100% monopoly on being you—let this be your advantage!

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