In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. Christ is in our midst! He is and shall be!

We’ve been very fortunate this year to have several feast days and important commemorations on Sunday, and this continues today with the Feast of the Leaders of the Apostles Peter and Paul. Last year, if I remember correctly, we looked at the missionary mind of St. Paul. Because we’re in a very similar situation, as a mission parish, taking the fullness of the Gospel to people around us who have never heard it in the way that we have to tell it, St. Paul (and Peter) are great examples, patrons, and inspirations for us.

But Sts. Peter and Paul didn’t go out and study missions and evangelism. They didn’t focus on tactics, other than being very careful to be all things to all people, to preach in a way their audience could receive their words. For the Apostles, and the early Church, their focus was not on the “mechanism” of mission. We can certainly learn a lot about evangelism from Sts. Peter and Paul, but first we have to be influenced by their person. St. Paul wrote to the Corinthian Church (1 Corinthians 11:1)—“Be ye imitators of me, as I am of Christ Jesus.” Sts. Peter and Paul are the leaders of the Apostles first and foremost because they teach us how to live in Christ. They lead us to Christ by their focus, by their priorities.

From the very beginning of their lives in Christ, Peter and Paul maintained absolute focus on Christ. God and the work of God took priority over everything else in their lives. St. Peter leaves everything, even his wife and family are left behind (not abandoned), in order to be an Apostle of Christ—the will of Christ reigned supreme in his life. We’re pulled in so many directions, but we can only serve one Master. St. Paul had to leave and change perspective on virtually everything in his life in order to follow Christ. He had to go from a persecutor of Christians, to an evangelist for Christ, and eventually a leader of the Church and a martyr (for the faith he hated before his vision of Christ on the road to Damascus).

Remember Christ’s words about how we can’t love anything more than Him (mothers or fathers or brothers or sisters or spouse or children or anything). If we love anything more than Christ then He says we’re not worthy of Him. We don’t have to leave our families to follow Christ, like St. Peter did (unless we’re called to be monastics). But the will of God, the things of Christ and His Holy Body the Church, must have the first place in our lives with that same intensity. And we don’t go and do something extra to show this—what we do every day shows whether Christ is first in our lives. For example: How do we spend our time—prayer? Services? Helping others? Or mostly wasted on frivolous or even harmful activities? How do we spend our money—tithe? Charities? Or is it mostly used for our wants?

We have to take an account of our lives every now and then—time, money, attitude, relationships, spiritual life—a real look at the totality of our lives will reveal areas where Christ is not the first priority, and then we can make the effort to change it. We can begin to make time every day for prayer, and make sure our schedules are cleared for Sundays and the Feasts of the Church. We can make the lifestyle changes to make sure that we can tithe to our parish every month, and give money to those who are hungry or in need (and in the theology of the Church and the Scriptures, Christ gets the best, the first, and we get what left. This is the story of Cain and Abel—Abel’s sacrifice is accepted because he offers his best, and Cain’s is rejected not because he offered crops instead of animals, but because he kept the first and the best for himself, and offered the leftovers to God).

And I mention time and money specifically this morning because this is where the rubber meets the road, so to speak. We could talk about all types of theoretical situations, but what we do with our time every day, and how we spend our money every paycheck, in our society these two areas show us very clearly where our priorities lie. Frankly—Christ can sustain His Church without our presence and without our money. He can send others to take our place. BUT we need the Body of Christ for our salvation; we need to be in the services; we need to make tangible and willing sacrifices for the sake of Christ. We need the life that Christ gives us for our renewal and our salvation. And we need to spend to time to review our lives and see what our priorities are—because it’s not even that we choose consciously to put Christ in second or third place, for many of us, we may not even realize that we have a prize higher than Christ until we take the time to look and see.

Sts. Peter and Paul stand as magnificent examples for us, leading us to Christ by their unfailing focus on God, and by how that plays out in their lives. Every area of their lives is given to Christ—inner and outer, private and public, family, time, money, friends—every part of our lives must be given to Christ as well. We’ll end with a quote to reconnect the lives of Sts. Peter and Paul with their missionary ministry, and how our ministries in the world are directly connected to our lives in Christ. St. Seraphim of Sarov very succinctly says—“Acquire the spirit of peace (in other words, live at all times in Christ – and by your presence), thousands around you will be saved.” But as with Sts. Peter and Paul, the change begins within us, and even that begins with a reshaping of our priorities each and every day.

Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever!

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