28 April – Memorial of Saint Peter Chanel, Priest and Martyr
Saint Peter Chanel (1803 – 1841). He was born in France, at Cuet (near Belley), in 1803. He had been a priest for three years when he was accepted by the Marists, a missionary order. He was sent out to evangelize the island of Futuna in the Pacific, where cannibalism had only recently been banned by the local ruler, Niuliki. At first all went well, and Father Chanel and his lay assistants made many converts; but as he learned the local language and gained the confidence of the people, Niuliki became jealous and fearful; and the baptism of his son and his son’s friends was the last straw. While Father Chanel’s companions were away, Niuliki sent men who set upon him and clubbed him to death. His mission had lasted only three years: he is the first martyr of the South Seas.
After the discussion had gone on a long time, Peter stood up and addressed the apostles and the elders.
‘My brothers,’ he said ‘you know perfectly well that in the early days God made his choice among you: the pagans were to learn the Good News from me and so become believers. In fact God, who can read everyone’s heart, showed his approval of them by giving the Holy Spirit to them just as he had to us. God made no distinction between them and us, since he purified their hearts by faith. It would only provoke God’s anger now, surely, if you imposed on the disciples the very burden that neither we nor our ancestors were strong enough to support? Remember, we believe that we are saved in the same way as they are: through the grace of the Lord Jesus.’
This silenced the entire assembly, and they listened to Barnabas and Paul describing the signs and wonders God had worked through them among the pagans.
When they had finished it was James who spoke. ‘My brothers,’ he said ‘listen to me. Simeon has described how God first arranged to enlist a people for his name out of the pagans. This is entirely in harmony with the words of the prophets, since the scriptures say:
After that I shall return
and rebuild the fallen House of David;
I shall rebuild it from its ruins
and restore it.
Then the rest of mankind,
all the pagans who are consecrated to my name,
will look for the Lord,
says the Lord who made this known so long ago.
‘I rule, then, that instead of making things more difficult for pagans who turn to God, we send them a letter telling them merely to abstain from anything polluted by idols, from fornication, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood. For Moses has always had his preachers in every town, and is read aloud in the synagogues every sabbath.’
Jesus said to his disciples:
‘As the Father has loved me,
so I have loved you.
Remain in my love.
If you keep my commandments
you will remain in my love,
just as I have kept my Father’s commandments
and remain in his love.
I have told you this
so that my own joy may be in you
and your joy be complete.’
He made no distinction between us and them, for by faith he purified their hearts.
The neighborhood where I grew up in New York was considered to be one of the most diverse places in all of the United States. Within a few square miles, there is a wide range of ethnic groups including Asians (Chinese, Korean, Indian), Latin Americans, African Americans, Caucasians, Jews, etc. The neighborhood had this clustering effect, where one group would live, work and play in one part of town, while the other groups would do the same just adjacent to each other. Easily – you could walk from one end of the neighborhood to the other and feel like you’ve traveled to different continents around the world.
What made for great diversity also, at times, made for harsh stereotyping and social exclusion. Those same neighborhood groupings manifested themselves amongst the different social groups at school. It was easy to befriend the kids who looked and dressed like you because of the similarities in language, cultural experiences and ‘values’. What was harder was finding commonality with the other kids who were different to you. Many times, there was an ‘us or them’ feeling that permeated in the school halls.
In the first reading from today, we are told of the debate that the early Christians had on whether Gentiles were to be considered eligible to receive the Gospel. The Gentiles didn’t follow the Mosaic laws. They weren’t circumcised and ate ‘unclean’ foods. They were considered heathen to the Jews at the time. Yet the Apostle Peter made the case that God saw no distinction between the Gentiles and the Jews. Paul and Barnabas backed him up by detailing signs that God showed them. James referenced scripture. For by faith He had purified their hearts and baptized them with the Holy Spirit. So in effect, there is no ‘us and them’. There simply is just us.
Today, let us celebrate the differences of the people around us. For all of those differences, we are all the same – broken people who are wonderfully loved by our Almighty Creator and have been given the gift of eternal salvation through Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Steven Su)
Prayer – Lord, we pray for the people and the places in this world that are suffering from conflict and division. May You help them heal their differences and find commonality through You.
Thanksgiving – We give thanks to the peacemakers in our homes, schools, churches, workplace and communities.