Today’s three readings are related to the work of the two chief apostles of our faith. ‘Peter the Apostle, and Paul the teacher of the Gentiles, these have taught us your law, O Lord.’ What connects them is a strange twist hidden in these accounts. There is an unexpected ‘turn’ which is easily overlooked. What is it?
The first miracle of Peter is healing a crippled beggar. ‘He was a cripple from birth, and they used to put him down every day near the Temble entrance called the Beautiful gate so that he could beg from the people going in.’ This first miracle of God, this first miracle of the Church born at Pentecost is this healing. Surely, there were other sick and crippled from prominent families -why this most insignificant beggar is signled out? Not the worthy, not the powerful, not the prayerful, not the rich, not the friens of the apostles. We are invited to contemplate this question… Perhaps, becaue this beggar did his humble task, asking for help, and bringing people’s attention to God’s mercy. Seemingly a menial and unnoticed job. Jesus rewards him with his special attention and gift. This answer is not given to those who excel in their profession, it is not given to the ‘best’. But God’s grace appreciates something in this person’s life. It tells a lot about how God sees people.
A further twist in this first reading is that it is Peter who makes this miracle, in the power of Jesus’ name. Again, not the worthiest of the apostles, not John, who never betrayed their master -but Peter who denied Jesus three times, when his support was most needed.
In our second reading the twist in the story is that Paul has never met Jesus. Neither had he contact with all the apostles. After his conversion, he ‘did not go up to Jerusalem to see those who were already apostles before me’ but went to preach Christ to the Gentiles. ‘Even when after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and stayed with him for fifteen days, I did not se any of the other apostles. I only say Jamws, the brother of the Lord, and I swear before God that what I have written is the literal truth.’ The twist in the story is not the lack of meeting, but despite this lack of physical contact and personal meeting, the profound bond with the other apostles. This bond is their love for their Master, and the connecting power of the Holy Spirit. They act for the same purpose: bringing Christ to the newly formed and emerging communities. Extending this bond, web of grace and love.
Also, it is striking that Paul knows that for this mission God has ‘specially chosen me while I was still in my mother’s womb.’
Again, there is so much to celebrate and apply to our lives. Unworthy we may be, like Paul, God, for a reason, for something in us, has chosen us to be part of the bond of love which sustains our churches throughout generations, and throughout the whole globe. Again, while has God chosen us -‘beggars of grace?’
The Gospel reading just amplifies how God is chosing people. Peter, who would have been unworthy to be the chief apostle because of his past, is chosen. He is appointed to this task after unmasking his past unworthiness. ‘Peter, do you love me? Look after my sheep.’
‘Lord, you know everything;you know I love you.’
What is this ‘everything’from our past, which makes us unworthy to join the mission of the Church, the mission of Peter and Paul? What has to be processed in our lives, and let go through Christ’s forgiveness? And why is it that God, so consistently, has been calling us to build up his Kingdom, the beauty and justice of that Kingdom of God, which is such a start contrast to shortcomings of this world? Why is God insisting upon meeting you, calling you, leading to a realisation that you have an important work for this Kingdom?
What cold make us sit at the right place and right time, as in the beggar’s case, that we don’t miss that moment of reawakening – or that moment of reassurance?
These are verbal Icons, expressions of how the world is seen from Saint Augustine's..