O.K. loyal readers, if I have any left after my long period of silence, I’m back. Sorry for not posting more often.
Today, when I am posting this, on the Catholic liturgical calendar, is the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul. This is a slightly expanded and adapted version of my notes for the homily I gave this weekend. As usual, when I preach, a few more thoughts, comments and words slip into the vocal presentation, but here is the core of what I proclaimed.
In Chinese Philosophy, the Yin-Yang symbol, seen to the left, represents harmony. That is the harmony between heaven and earth, the bodily and spiritual side of human. Sometimes it is a way of expressing a balance between what might at first look like opposing forces. To be whole, the symbol suggests one must embrace the opposing, seemingly competing forces in the person and hold them in balance.
Today’s feast of Saints Peter and Paul gives us the chance to celebrate the yin and yang of the Catholic Church. The church, in a sense, has a split personality. It might be said that there’s a Peter side of this family we call Catholic and that there is a Paul side of the Catholic community. The church needs both personalities to be who we are called to be by Jesus, that is to be his image, his body in this world.
The Peter side is expressed is found in the person or role of the Holy Father and the centralized authority most often identified as “Rome.” The Pope’s job, in a sense, is to hold everything together; his role is to be the authority that makes sure we’re all proclaiming the same thing, believing the same thing, even in our diversity of cultures, languages, and customs. In this unity of faith, overseen by the central authority we can see the church is ONE, unified in Jesus Christ.
The church, to be true to it’s identity must be Paul like. To be who we are baptized to be, sharers in the mission of Christ the church must go out to the ends of the earth, like Paul did, to proclaim Good News. If Paul lived today, he’d probably be a member of the million miles club in his airline’s loyalty program, going to every point of the known world, not just the ends of the world as known in his day. The church, as Paul, must ever seek out new ways to express the one eternal faith, not being satisfied to use the same techniques and language that sufficed in previous centuries. The church is to be all things to all people, as Paul claimed to be so that the church’s “missionary” identity is faithfully lived.
Now consider this fact. Where did Paul end up at, at the end of his life? In ROME! Under house arrest, yes, but at the center, that place that represents the core, the oneness of our belief. All our efforts to go out to the world to proclaim Jesus must always lead us back to unity in the Christ, the foundation of our faith.
Our identity as Church must have Yin – Yang, it must have the front and back of a coin. We must always push the boundaries while always being pulled to the center, Jesus Christ.
We give thanks, on the feast of Peter and Paul for these models of church life
Peter, the glue that holds us together.
Paul, the fire in our soul that propels us out to explore new ways to bring all people to Christ.
Peter, the support beams of the household of the church.
Paul, who is the dreamer architect that imagines new designs for that household to be always a welcoming dwelling place for all who live in Christ.
In this case, its good to have two identities, both of them in perfect balance, both necessary to truly be who we are as church: Peter and Paul, gifts of God to the church to help us be the one Body of Christ.