Today’s first reading has a power, movement and dynamism about it. The Jews were captivated by Peter and all those present could hear him speaking in their own language. There was something explosive about Peter as he speaks to them about the greatness of God.
What is that greatness? Very simply it is God’s love for us and not ours for him. This is something radical and new according to St John in the second reading. Only when we know and receive that love can we truly know God, coming to believe that we are begotten by Him and that we have literally become his children. Last Tuesday we celebrated the English Martyrs. On a wet, cold and miserable evening, thirty young people plus priest, plus dog walked down Oxford Street to Tyburn in solidarity and gratitude for those martyrs. We were asking for the spirit to walk with them in our own time and place and to be able to receive the grace that they had. There is no need to be gruesome except to say that those martyrs were subjected to a terrifying, brutal and cruel death. They had been asked to deny the greatness of God and his love for us. All of that is made real and present in the holy Mass, confession and the unity of the church. They had refused to deny that truth because in the words of the gospel “they were no longer servants but friends“. They had met the greatness of God and had become his friends. Somehow God’s love had overcome. Suffocated and consumed, the martyrs were ready to smile, love and forgive their persecutors, torturers and executioners.
Many ask in these days why so many have rejected, become indifferent to and ignored Christ, his Church and sacraments. The simple answer is that they have not met, encountered and drunk of God’s love for us. Without the personal knowledge and experience of that love which is the Holy Spirit the world is full of traps, seductions and tricks. How much we need to, as the gospel reminds us, "remain in my love". That love shows forth in the sacrifice that takes away our sins, as Saint John tells us in the second reading. This is the cross.
The Cross is always here to teach us of his love. His love for us cannot be understood apart from the cross. How much we must embrace, kiss, hold onto and cherish the cross. If we lose sight of it, we lose sight of his love and the greatness of God. The cross is there when we have to forgive, be patient in prayer and to turn the other cheek.
Mary was told at the Presentation in the Temple that a sword would pierce her soul. This meant that her whole life would be marked by the cross of Jesus. Let us ask her to teach us how to hold on to that cross. It is thus that we can proclaim his greatness as did Peter.