Monday, July 03, 2006

In times of trial

This from Pope Benedict XVI's homily on the feast of Ss. Peter and Paul. It contains words of encouragement for all who strive against the snares of the devil, none the least of which is the successor of Peter.

”In this Basilica erected over the tomb of Peter, a pauper’s grave...”

by Benedict XVI

And then he turned to Peter. He said Satan had demanded to sift the disciples like wheat. This evokes the passage in the book of Job in which Satan asks God for permission to afflict Job. The devil - the calumniator of God and men - wants to prove by this that true religious devotion does not exist, but that man is always and in everything looking for his own gain. In Job’s case, God grants Satan the freedom he has requested precisely in order to defend his creature, man, and himself. This is what happens to the disciples of Jesus, in all times. So often it seems to us that God is allowing Satan too much liberty, that he is granting him the ability to shake us in a much too terrible way, and that this exceeds our power and too greatly oppresses us. Again and again we cry out to God: Look down upon the misery of your disciples and protect us! In fact, Jesus continues: ‘I have prayed for you that your own faith may not fail’ (Luke 22:32). The prayer of Jesus is the limit posed on the power of evil. The prayers of Jesus are the protection of the Church. We can seek refuge under this protection, cling to it and be sure of it. But, as the Gospel tells us, Jesus prayed especially for Peter: ‘that your faith may not fail.’ This prayer of Jesus is at the same time a promise and a task entrusted. The prayer of Jesus safeguards Peter’s faith, the faith that he confessed at Caesarea Philippi: "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God" (Matthew 16:16). Ecco: don’t ever allow this faith to become dumb, always reinvigorate it again, even in the face of the cross and all the contradictions of the world – this is the task of Peter. This is precisely why the Lord does not only pray for the personal faith of Peter but for his faith in the service of others. This is what He means when He says: ‘and you, when once you have turned back, strengthen your brothers’ (Luke 22:32).

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