I recently traveled to Denver, CO to attend a Rachel’s Challenge Training along with four teachers from our Charter Schools. Rachel Scott was the first student killed at Columbine High School. On April 20, 1999 Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris shot and killed Rachel and 12 of her school mates. Over the past 15 years, her dad and her siblings and her step mother have traveled the world speaking about intentional kindness and literally beginning a chain reaction of good deeds. Believing that love will win and that darkness cannot overcome light, they have told the story of Rachel’s deep love for everyone and her support of all.
500 of us teachers and administrators gathered to listen and to learn and to see how we might bring Rachel’s spirit to our schools — and to implement a process whereby no one will feel alone and all will belong. Rachel’s life — and death — have created a legacy literally impacting millions of people around the world. One person does matter — one person CAN START A CHAIN REACTION.
This weekend we celebrate the life and faith of Sts. Peter and Paul. Jesus is the one true foundation of our faith and our Church. And, the Church has been built brick by brick … one person at a time. On the lived-faith of men and women — the Church has come to our time and on our faith, the Church will be passed on.
What might these two men say to us today? For one thing, they would remind us that we do not have to be perfect to be a follower of Jesus, a disciple, or even a Saint. Peter might remind us of how he did not always understand what Jesus was teaching. He might tell us of how he deserted Jesus in a time of need and how he actually denied Jesus. He could witness to us of his lack of faith in times of storms and trials. St. Paul would remind us of how he actually persecuted Christians. He could tell us how he stood by and did nothing when St. Stephen was martyred. St. Paul could tell us — that like him — Just because we never saw Jesus, we could still love him and serve him.
Peter could tell us many stories of the apostles … how they argued among themselves of who was the most important. He would tell us about the doubt of Thomas. He might tell about the day that the mother of James and John tried to assure that they were given places of honor. Peter might tell us about his mother-in-law and what it was like for him to be a married man who would become “pope.”
Paul would tell us to do the best we could, despite the weight of our humanness. He would tell us about the trials that would come our way if we take on power and stay firm with our message of truth. He would tell us about prison and ship wreck.
Both men would tell us how fiery temperaments could become flames of fire lighting the world and warming hearts.
Both men would remind us that WE ARE THE CHURCH …. WE ARE THE TEMPLES of the Holy Spirit. Paul would remind us that though many, we are one. Paul would remind us that we all have gifts …. but there is but one Spirit who gives gifts to all. He might even beg us to be one — to put aside our differences for the sake of a common good.
When visiting Ephesus, it was clear to me how difficult it was for Peter and Paul to get to Ephesus. A trip made in less than a day by jetliner, would have taken months by boat and overland travel. They did not do what they did because it was easy — but because they believe in the mission and the giver of the mission.
Our faith, our Church, our parish — all are built on the faith of people. We have inherited a legacy and we are called to live a legacy. The famous and the infamous have built up the body of Christ in our area. The saint and the sinner have knelt side by side and sung the same songs. The Eucharist has been shared by the arrogant and the meek. Somewhere along the way, they left behind their boats — or — were blinded by a vision, and set their sights on what they felt deep within their hearts.
Beginning with Jesus — human beings have been a part of the Father’s plan to spread love and to offer welcome. Peter and Paul were two of the followers of Jesus who took the challenge to live the faith. Peter and Paul are two of our ancestors in faith.
St. Peter’s Basilica and many majestic Churches bearing the name of St. Paul — as well as mission chapels bearing the names of both — are a part of our history. We visit these churches to celebrate our faith. As inspirational as these buildings might be — if the men after whom these buildings were named did not live faith — they would mean nothing.
Rachel Scott — like so many other women and men — was a part of a chain … and we are called to keep the chain going … and at times to start a chain reaction. A single young woman at Columbine High School has become the inspiration for a world-wide movement to create safe and healthy learning environments.
Jesus had a dream … a desire that the blind might see and the lame might walk. Jesus wanted the poor to be seen as the owners of the kingdom …he wanted the hungry to be fed. In his kingdom there was no Jew or Gentile … man or woman … slave or free. Jesus tore down customs and walls.
To Peter and to Paul …. to Sally and Michael … to Juan and Maria …. to Francois and Margaret … and to you and me the mission is given …. Upon our lived faith the Church IS TO BE BUILT.
Hear the call? Sense the dream? Accept the mission.