Whenever I pray at the tombs of St Peter and St Paul, my thoughts always go first to how little – if anything – must remain of them. I remember that Peter and Paul were human, with all their self confessed frailties, like me.
Then my thoughts always seem to turn to the magnificent Basilicas built over the Apostles’ tombs. These express the faith of so many. They have been the focus too of the faith of hundreds of millions of pilgrims over centuries.
Peter and Paul planted seeds of faith
Peter and Paul, with the other early followers of Christ, planted the seeds of Christian faith in others. Yet the outcome, a Christian faith that has spread across the earth, is beyond purely human explanation.
The fruits of the efforts of Peter and Paul demonstrate the power of God. Paul explained that one plants the seeds of faith, another waters, but ‘it is God who gives the growth’ [1 Corinthians 3:6-7].
Faith spread through the power of the resurrection
The message that expressed this power was that Christ is Risen, Christ is with us, and Christ seeks to share the power of his resurrection with all who believe in him. For Paul, without the resurrection, ‘our preaching is without substance, and so is your faith’ [1 Corinthians 15:14].
Paul’s deepest desire was ‘to know Christ and the power of his resurrection’ [Philippians 3:10]. This was the power that gave life to the preaching of both of the Apostles, over whose dust we can pray today in the Basilicas that bear their names.
The resurrection’s power encourages new evangelisers
As we meditate on what ‘Christ and the power of his resurrection’ accomplished in Peter and Paul, we should be enormously encouraged. It is ‘Christ and the power of his resurrection’ who, despite our failings, will work through our fragile efforts towards the new evangelisation of the vast majority of Catholics who have given up their religious practice.
This is the foundation for my own fervent and persistent personal prayer – that the lord protect all in the diocese I serve from the weaknesses of their Bishop. Let it strengthen the resolve of each of us – parents, spouses, priests, family members, friends, religious, colleagues, and acquaintances – to play our parts, despite our felt limitations, in the new evangelisation of our family members, friends and others in our lives.
We may be impulsive and vacillating like Peter, or feel in the grip of human weakness like Paul, but let our focus always be on ‘knowing Christ and the power of his resurrection’ [eg Galatians 2:12; Romans 7:14-25]. As some of us plant, and others water, it is God who will give the growth.
The resurrection’s power in those needing new evangelisation
While the challenges in leading those needing new evangelisation are great, we must remember also that ‘Christ and the power of his resurrection’ have been within them since their baptisms. Our task is to help them to become aware of who is within them, and to respond to what his power can accomplish within them.
Let us all do our best to proclaim the faith, proclaimed too by Peter and Paul, in the steps Jesus taught. This means:
- serving as instruments of Christ’s personal love to those who have given up their religious practice .We do this through the actions and words of Christian witness, as has been explained in my Lenten Pastoral Letter [www.bunburycatholic.org.au];
- stirring in them an initial faith in the Person of Christ. We do this by leading those who have given up religious practice to appreciate how the power of Christ’s kingdom can fulfil their deepest heart yearnings [discussed in last year’s Easter Message];
- and leading them both to recognise within themselves the basic experiences of God that Jesus alone can make possible, and to have faith in these experiences. We do this by helping those who have given up religious practice to mine these experiences, which underlie the Four Ways, or the Four Languages of Faith -the Creed, the Sacraments, the Life in Christ and Christian Prayer – and by helping them discover that only these experiences can fully satisfy the human heart.
Let us pray for the faith of Peter and Paul
Let us pray this Easter to Sts Peter and Paul that, like them, we deepen in our faith in ‘Christ and the power of his resurrection’. Then, as with them, God will give growth to the seeds of faith that we plant in others’ lives – a growth that, over time, will be greater than anything we can imagine.
May the blessing of Easter be yours in abundance.
Most Reverend Gerard J Holohan
Bishop of Bunbury