Monday, June 29, 2009


First Reading: Acts 12:1-11
Psalm: Ps 34:2-9 -- The angel of the Lord will rescue those who fear him
Second Reading: 2 Tm 4:6-8, 17-18
Gospel: Mt 16:13-19
Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, Apostles

The Lord stood by me and gave me strength, so that through me the proclamation might be completed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was rescued from the lion's mouth.
The Lord will rescue me from every evil threat and will bring me safe to his heavenly Kingdom. To him be glory forever and ever. Amen. - 2 Timothy 4:17-18

In the readings today, we hear of two great leaders in the early church. First, St. Peter is in prison on the eve of his execution. Next, St. Paul, writing from his prison in Rome, near his execution under the emperor Nero. One is delivered, one is not.

We might ask what is going on here. After all, hadn't Paul done everything he could to live as a Christian and spread the gospel? Why didn't God free him from prison like He had done before (see Acts 16), or like he does for Peter in the first reading? Was his faith not strong enough? Had he done something to upset the Lord? Not at all. In fact, Paul does not expect to be freed from his imprisonment (on my reading, neither does Peter). He is content with his trust that the Lord would "bring me safe to his heavenly Kingdom."

Our own prayers are often for a deliverance from some harm, either for ourselves or for our loved ones. We ask to be freed from poverty, or for a relative to be cured from a horrible illness, or any of a thousand other requests. Christians find out very early that not all of these requests are granted. Sometimes, this drives people away from the faith. 'How could God refuse me this? I've done all He's asked, and He still wouldn't cure my mother/brother/son/niece/grandfather/friend.' Others try to use it to prove that prayer is useless, or that Christianity is a sham. 'After all, didn't Jesus promise that he would do whatever you asked?'

There are several things that we must recognize when praying for a deliverance. First, we are not in a position to bargain with, or threaten, God. We have nothing to use as a bargaining chip that does not already rightly belong to him. Second, we must remember that God has not promised us an easy ride, only that, in the long run, we will be okay if we put our trust in Him. Even Jesus asked to be delivered from the suffering he would endure, and that request was not granted. If the one who is most holy was not delivered from his deep suffering, we must not expect an automatic rescue from our own. Instead, we should learn to pray as Jesus did, "not as I will, but as you will," (Mt 26:39).

Heavenly Father, we thank you and praise you for the gift of this day. Thank you for the many blessings you have bestowed on us, and the many prayers you answer for us. Lord, give us the faith to put our trust in you. Grant that, even in our darkest hour, we might still have the strength to declare 'Thy will be done.' We ask these things in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

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