St. Peter the Rock

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It is both holy and healthy to reflect on the New Testament readings from daily Mass this Easter season as the apostles are on fire with the Holy Spirit and begin to teach, preach and evangelize freely.

From Acts of the Apostles 4:13-14, “Observing the boldness of Peter and John and perceiving them to be uneducated, ordinary men, the leaders, elders, and scribes were amazed, and they recognized them as the companions of Jesus.”

Peter went from denying Christ to preaching boldly in the name of Jesus at risk of imprisonment and even death. His courageous words challenge us to live and share our faith with others in our daily lives.

It can be difficult to know how to specifically do this in our lives today, but if we stay committed to a daily prayer life and receive the Sacraments as frequently as possible, we might be surprised how God’s grace will work in us to inspire, form, transform, and enliven us with the Holy Spirit to be more fully alive in our faith — and willing to bravely share the Gospel message in the ordinary circumstances of our lives.

I’d like to use the Knights of Columbus as an example. Their humble service in parishes around the world is a beautiful example of being St. Peter-like by serving in many ways in their families, parishes, communities as a result of their relationship with Jesus. 

We are all called to serve and evangelize in different ways — most often the ways are quiet and behind-the-scenes, such as cleaning up after a Fish Fry, adoring our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, making dinner for a sick friend, and even allowing someone to go ahead of us while we are driving, but Jesus sees all and loves all that we do — even the tiny seeds of desire to serve that haven’t sprouted yet do not go unnoticed by our Lord.

It is my hope and prayer that as we move through this Easter season we do so with an uncommon courage and glorious hope in the power of our relationship with Jesus Christ.

St. Charles Borromeo said, “God wishes us not to rest upon anything but His infinite goodness; do not let us expect anything, hope anything, or desire anything but from Him, and let us put our trust and confidence in Him alone.”

Let us spend time in silence to get to know Jesus even better and to open our hearts to what he is asking of us. It matters not whether our time with God involves a walk in nature, listening to spiritual music, reflecting on sacred art, reading scripture, or just sitting quietly in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament.

May we take to heart these words from St. Peter the Rock in 1 Peter 3-5: 

“By his great mercy we have been born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and to an inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”

Conversion

I’ve been helping people get physically stronger for nearly eight years. In that time, I’ve gone through a lot of changes in how I teach others and how I train and care for my own body. I’ve watched my students learn and grow. I’ve seen my training program, change, evolve and it continues to do so.

Change is inevitable in all areas of our lives, and it can be good, but sometimes life hits us hard with any number of challenges in family, work and life. On top of that, we are aging and dealing with forms of physical suffering, such as injury, illness and infirmity. In our physical difficulties, we learn about the spiritual power of suffering with love and perseverance—and by God’s grace, we have an opportunity to grow spiritually and to develop more compassion for the hardships faced by others.

Spiritual conversion is similar in that changes occur in us that can be both uplifting and challenging. We may experience many conversions in our lifetime as God seeks to bring us closer to him to help us grow in holiness. Changes, both big in small, by the grace of God, can lift us up, lead us into darkness, move us into new ways of serving, living and doing for God and for others. The changes might surprise us, even frighten us a little, and we may, believe it or not, even have an occasional longing for some sins that we’ve left behind.

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, #1989: “The first work of the grace of the Holy Spirit is conversion, effecting justification in accordance with Jesus' proclamation at the beginning of the Gospel: "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." Moved by grace, man turns toward God and away from sin, thus accepting forgiveness and righteousness from on high.”

Sometimes conversion, or this movement away from sin and toward God, means we change how we use our resources, our time, our energy, and even the people we spend our time with. We might be called to simplify, to give more, to lead or to follow in new ways, to pray more, or to just be more. God works with us so personally that the path of conversion is not predictable nor is it ever universal.

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I look to the saints for wisdom on this journey of conversion which we pray continues throughout our lives here on earth. The saints are regular people who had many points of conversion in their lives and grew to great holiness by their gradual, yet eventual submission to God’s will.

Pope Saint John Paul II encourages us. “I plead with you! Never, ever give up on hope, never doubt, never tire, never become discouraged. Be not afraid.”

The fruit of conversion can in fact, be the gift of journeying more fully with and for others. Other times, it can be more of a dark and lonely road like St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta experienced when God didn’t feel near to her — and so we rely on faith to keep moving forward without the clear light of His presence guiding us.

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In our physical journey, as in our spiritual journey, there will be changes, conversions, movements, big and small, good and not so good — I pray that we listen to our bodies and respond with prudent care — and more importantly, listen to God, accept and cooperate with his grace with a steely focus on the ultimate goal of eternal life.

St. Padre Pio knows well the struggles we face. “The life of a Christian is nothing but a perpetual struggle against self; there is no flowering of the soul to the heart of its perfection except at the price of pain.”