Tuesday 9th Week in Ordinary Time- Memorial of Saints Marcellinus and Peter Martyrs
Readings: 2 Corinthians 6: 4-10 Psalm 124:2-3,4-5.7b-8 John 17:11b-19
Today the church has the option of celebrating the Memorial of Saints Marcellinus and Peter.
Little is known with certainty about Saint Marcellinus and Saint Peter. Tradition tells us that Marcellinus was a priest and Peter an exorcist and that they were beheaded on the outskirts of Rome. A few years after the bloody event, a little boy from Rome heard about their deaths from the mouth of their very executioner, who later became a Christian. That little boy was named Damasus, and he went on to became Pope from 366–384. Decades later, remembering the story he had heard as a child, Pope Damasus honored Marcellinus and Peter by adorning their tomb with a marble inscription recounting the details of their martyrdom as he had heard them so long ago. Unfortunately, the inscription is lost.
The circumstances of Marcellinus’ and Peter’s deaths were likely similar to those of other, better-documented martyrdoms: some public declaration of faith, arrest, perfunctory trial, a chance to offer sacrifice to a Roman god, a refusal, a last chance to be an idolater, a last refusal, and then a swift, businesslike beheading. It was over quickly. Then came the calm. Then came the night. And out of that darkness emerged a candle-lit procession of humble Christians, walking slowly and silently toward the place of execution. The headless corpses were placed on white sheets and carried solemnly to an underground burial niche. A small marble plaque etched with the martyrs’ names was placed nearby. An oil lamp was lit and left burning. Thus the veneration began. Thus it continues today.
Marcellinus and Peter were important enough to be included in the official list of Roman martyrs and to have their names remembered in the liturgy of Rome. As the Mass celebrated in Rome became standard throughout the Catholic world, the names of Marcellinus and Peter were embedded into the Roman Canon, the First Eucharistic Prayer. And there they are read at Mass until today, more than one thousand seven hundred years after they died. The Body of Christ forgets nothing, retains everything, and purifies its memory to honor those who deserve honoring.
I am writing this reflection on a beautiful Sunday, while sitting on our deck with my wife who is napping in the Lord’s embrace, and after having served at mass on Pentecost where the gift of the Holy Spirit reigned down upon the apostles, and on the beginning of the early church. The readings for today’s Memorial mass for these two Saints and their story could not accentuate what the life of a Catholic Christian needs to look like today, for us, with all that is happening.
At our baptism when the Holy Spirit came down upon us he was not saying, “ your life will be easy”. On the contrary, Baptism is the beginning of our inner conversion, to a softer heart, with an eye towards compassion for others, and our willingness to fight for their mercy and justice. Our baptismal promise guarantees us that we will find ourselves and will be perceived by others as a little “different”. Not left or right, liberal or conservative, just different.
We may not always or ever agree with what we read, see, or listen to, but it is our God given responsibility to NOT remain silent or hidden to what is happening. St. Paul writes in the first reading that “ we commend ourselves as ministers of God”, we are the voice of God, the heart of God, not for ourselves but for all others regardless of what today’s society is telling us who merits such righteous acts. Everyone is granted the right to mercy and justice, from the unborn to the elderly, from those at the bottom of the economic scale to the top, and from those who appear different on the outside.
All humankind has been created in God’s image and likeness, and yet people act, speak, judge, and malign others with dark souls, and stony hearts, and others remain silent and invisible.
Evangelizing and preforming God’s will not come without cost, St. Paul lists in his letter to the Corinthians the hardships that we will encounter, he also lists what others may think and say about us, but it is only with the grace of God and the strength of the Holy Spirit that we know the divine truth of our life’s path no matter the cost.
Saints Marcellinus and Peter guide us as we imitate you to live out our Baptismal promises, to be with us “when we are treated as deceivers and yet are truthful; as we are unrecognized and yet acknowledged; as we are sorrowful yet always rejoicing; as poor yet enriching many, and as having nothing and yet possessing all things.” (St. Paul)