Deacon Stu Dobson’s Reflection 11-18-22

33rd Friday in Ordinary Time, Dedication of the Basilicas of Saints Peter and Paul. November 18, 2022
Rv 10:8-11; Ps 119:14, 24, 72, 103, 111, 131; Lk 19:45-48

The two images presented today, the first from the book of Revelations where John literally is told to eat the word of God, and the other where Jesus cleanses the temple, are most fitting on this day when we celebrate the dedications of two great basilicas for two great apostles, Peter and Paul. 

The image of eating the word of God is a symbol of “consuming” or a total understanding of the words written in the paper. In this case, John is told to eat the word of God so as to become so familiar with it, that it becomes part of him. As the story suggests, it tastes as sweet as honey, but as it hits our stomachs, it turns sour. So, as it is with our life as we strive to become saints, we love to read the word of God and learn as much as we can, but when it comes time to live it out, we sour. Living the life Christ wants us to can be bittersweet at times. While we welcome it with much great love, we struggle to fulfill the call.

Jesus found this struggle with those in the temple yard. The temple was to be a house of prayer, but He found all sorts of illicit behavior there and was forced to drive them out. It seems like Jesus found a bittersweet place. Sweet because it was God’s house, but bitter because it became a den of thieves. 

Peter and Paul both found it bittersweet in their travels and lives. In many places, they were welcomed with love and admiration. But in many other places, there were shunned, persecuted, and literally beaten to the point of death. But that did not stop them. Both had consumed the word of God and it was part of who they were. They never let a little disappointment or threats of death stop them from proclaiming the truth. Paul especially was arrested and threatened multiple times. Some of his greatest writings were completed while he was in prison. He was eventually martyred by Emperor Nero in the year 67, and was buried in a cemetery on Via Ostia, a major road in Rome, and it was there his basilica was constructed over his grave. Peter as well, was imprisoned multiple times, and also was instrumental in bringing the Gospel to the Gentiles. He too was imprisoned by Nero and was martyred around the year 64 upside down on the cross because he did not feel worthy to be crucified like Christ. Peter was buried on Vatican Hill, and it was there St Peter’s Basilica was built. 

As we consume the sweet word of God, do not be afraid of the bitter aftertaste. Let us imitate Peter and Paul with all the sweetness of the Gospel, and the bitterness of martyrdom. It is there, we will find salvation. 

Published by St. James, Belvidere

Saint James Catholic Church, Belvidere, IL