In the Caribbean the Solemnity of St. Peter and St. Paul is celebrated as Fisherman’s Birthday. On this day the fishing towns and villages celebrate. Fishermen and their families, as well as fish vendours make a special effort to Mass on this Day.
I myself have enjoyed blessing boats, blessing the fishermen their families. I’ve stood in the prow of a boat anchored in the shallows and blessed the seas asking the Lord will calm the storms. I’ve even pleaded the cause of fish that they not be wastefully gathered into nets.
To taste the Caribbean is to enter into the joy of the fishing community; to down good food and good drink and to join in the games. The fishing community deserves recognition. They put fresh delicious fish onto our tables. They support their own families and contribute to the economy.
For this they deserve our gratitude, as well as our frequent prayers for their safety. Theirs, indeed, is a hazardous occupation. Too often have I anxiously joined families praying for loved ones ‘missing at sea!’
The Gospels make it very clear that Jesus felt much at home with the Galilee lake-side community. From this He recruited men who would follow Him and work with Him, as He embarked upon an enterprise that would eventually touch the remotest corners of the earth and would last until the end of time. They were to proclaim and promote the Good News of the Kingdom of God here on earth.
Those who had netted fish for human consumption were to be ‘fishers of men’ who would net others so that they might be fed on the Word of God and share in the life of God.
Among those Jesus had chosen was one noted one, Simon bar Jonah, who stood out as a natural leader; the self-appointed spokesman for his fellow-workers; the one to step forward to declare that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the Living God.
Jesus designated Simon was to be the foreman, the gang-leader, of the Church of which Jesus would be the Head. This one to whom Jesus had given a new role and a new identity, was given by Jesus a new name, ‘Cephas’- which means ‘rock.’ The English equivalent is ‘Peter.’
After Jesus had ascended into heaven Simon Peter was recognized as the one Jesus had appointed to be His ‘Vicar’ or ‘Chief Representative,’ or ‘Chief Agent.’ But never, never was Peter to be seen as the ‘Substitute’ or ‘Replacement’ for Jesus!
The present-day Vicar of Christ and Successor of St. Peter, the Visible, in-the-flesh, Head of the Church, is known as the Pope. His name is ‘Francis.’ In the name of Jesus and assisted by the appropriate graces the Pope is to offer sound Teaching and Wise Leadership to the Church in its mission to the modern world.
As a matter of urgency Pope Francis has very recently seen that God is calling him to commission and challenge the whole world to protect and rescue the totality of its environment. This is being damaged, almost beyond repair, in part by human carelessness, irresponsibility and greed.
The Pope emphasizes over and over again that it is the impoverished, the vulnerable human that are the most significant victims of this wreckage of the global ecology. Courageously he has written what is known as an Encyclical, or circular letter, to the community that is entire Human Family - urging that we come to our senses and act immediately to reverse the damage we are doing…before it is too late.
The Church everywhere throughout the world celebrates the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul.
In St. Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles, the Church sees the heroic expression of its Mission to reach out to the peoples of the world.
Jesus entrusted to St. Peter, His Vicar, the responsibilities of leadership within His Church.
As members of the Church we owe more than affection for the Pope. We owe him loyalty at a very practical, down to earth level…by practising what he teaches…by defending him and his teaching when others are vilifying him as person together with the advice and warning he is offering us.
Our world is God’s world…It is a world for all us to cherish…we must not squander its resources…we must not topple the delicate balance of its ecology.
THE POPE IS CHALLENGING EACH AND ALL TO BEHAVE AS RESPONSIBLE HUMAN BEINGS.
Peter Clarke, O.P.