Take up the challenge
On 29 June in the Maronite Church we commemorate the two great
pillars of the Church, Saints Peter & Paul. Saint Peter, originally named Simon denied Jesus three times. Later, Peter came to know Christ in Faith and Jesus entrusted him with the universal church:
[Jesus to Peter] “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. (Matthew 16:15-18)
Saint Paul was originally known as Saul had persecuted early Christians. He also came to Christ in faith:
“Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” He asked, “Who are you, Lord?” The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But get up and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” (Acts 9:3-6)
These two saints who came to Christ in faith took the Gospel to others. In the early Church, the lead up to their feasts was a time of fasting. We know from the Maronite Synod of 1736, that in the lead up to their feast (by that time at least) Maronites would fast for 4 days abstaining from oil, wine, meat and animal products including dairy. This fast was known as the Apostles Lent.
The foundation of the fast is found in Matthews Gospel. When the Pharisees criticise the apostles for not fasting, Jesus said to them:
“The wedding guests cannot mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them, can they? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast. (Matthew 9:15)
The tradition of the Fast existed at least since the fifth century and is referred to in the homilies of Pope Leo I (461 AD). The Fast is a reminder of the witness of the apostles that we should also live in faith and be ready to preach the Gospel. It is a preparation so that we may be reminded of our faith and help prepare ourselves to bring others into faith.
Take up the challenge from June 25-28 to pray and fast so that you may continue to spread the Gospel of Jesus to those around you.
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