Today the feast of martyrdom of saints Peter and Paul.
Jesus chose Peter, the fisherman from Galilee, son of John and brother of Andrew, as the leader of the apostles and the rock on which He would build His Church. Peter was the first to preach the risen Lord on the day of Pentecost. He also convened the first Church Council in Jerusalem and wrote two epistles to the whole Church. He was crucified by Emperor Nero in 64 CE and over his grave was built St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
Paul, the fanatical Pharisee and scholar of Judaism was miraculously converted and chosen by the Spirit to be the “apostle to the Gentiles.” He wrote 13 epistles, made several missionary journeys and spent his final days in prison in Caesarea and Rome. He was beheaded at Tre Fontane. Over his grave was built St. Paul’s Cathedral in Rome. After Jesus, Paul is the most prominent person in the New Testament. 13 of the 27 books of the New Testament are letters attributed to Paul and more than half of the Acts of the Apostles is devoted to Paul’s conversion and to his apostolic activities in spreading the Good News. Paul’s greatness lies in his passion for the Good News about Jesus and his desire to share it.
For our spiritual reflection let us look at the two great saints.
Both, Saints Peter and Paul did not die on the same day. However they are the principal Pillars of the Church founded by Christ.
Peter’s hand were rough, as he was a fisherman by trade.
Paul’s hand were soft, as he was a Jewish rabbi.
Peter was a disciple from the Lord- was with Jesus for 3 years and most painful one too.
Paul was a disciple of the Lord from his conversion, he was not called like Peter, however it was painful.
Peter, later on was always hesitant, he did not leave Jerusalem till his last year.
Paul, stayed in Jerusalem for a few days and then went to Asia Minor, Mesopotamia
Peter- very conservative and did not welcome others.
Paul- anyone who said ‘Jesus is Lord’ was welcomed.
Two different personalities, yet both died as martyrs. They lived and gave their life for Jesus. The Church has both of them.
If only Peter: we would be in Jerusalem
If only Paul: we would be fragmented sectors.
[Thus today we see in our Holy Father, both Peter and Paul. He is deeply rooted in Rome (not just physical residence, but on Jesus Christ), and at the same time deeply missionary (through his travel, writings and personality).
We need Peter to keep us stable, and we need Paul to keep us changing and keep going.
Take the example of a car, if only brakes then it would not move, only accelerate then it would crash. We need both the brakes and accelerator too.
In the families too; we need conservative and progressive, keep the old faith alive and bring about positive change too. Thus a family grows and moves ahead.
Same goes with the Church; need stability and also people who bring about positive changes. This helps in total and good growth and brings about the good in each one.
Peter is called the Rock: Firm in Faith, Rooted in Faith- Jesus Christ.
Paul is called the great Missionary. Went out to share this faith with others and thus build the Church.
As a Baptized member of the Church, we are called to have both the Peter and Paul in our life; to be a strong Rock (stability) and Missionary.
Let us pray to be like Peter: to be deeply rooted in the love of Jesus Christ; and like Paul to be committed to spreading the love of Jesus Christ to all whom we meet.
This weekend we have the collections made during the Holy Mass for Peter’s pence for the humanitarian works of our Holy Father. Let us be generous. This is one way of living this our faith, to help the Holy Father in doing missionary work all around the world.
Both, Saint Peter and Paul, drew their strength not just from following Jesus, but from being with Him. They received their energy to be stable and missionary in their faith, by receiving Jesus in their lives and being close to Him. They proclaimed the living Christ through the Holy Eucharist, whom they encountered. Let us on this their feast day, receive Holy Communion asking Jesus to give us the same faith and zeal to be stable and missionary in our lives so as to proclaim Him.
we could use today’s feast for vocation too: Their Yes to God!
Today we celebrate the feast of Saints Peter and Paul. In them we see heroic virtue. In them we see enmity becoming friendship. And perhaps most important, in them we see how someone’s “yes” to God can change not only their own lives but the entire course of Christianity.
These two giants in the faith came from completely different backgrounds- one a fisherman, the other a scholar. One walked with Jesus personally for years, and the other encountered him after the resurrection. They didn’t always see eye to eye. But their lives and their ministries had remarkable parallels. Their paths were not always easy: both were imprisoned many times. Both were miraculously released from jail (Acts 12, 16). Both dedicated their entire lives to building up the Church. And both were executed as martyrs to the faith.
What united them? They said “yes” to Jesus. In living out that “yes”, they strove every day to be faithful to God’s call in their lives. And in response to that “yes”, they experienced God’s faithfulness to them every day. As they poured themselves out for Jesus and his mission, shared the gospel with as many people as possible and willingly suffered in Christ’s name, they changed and grew. Each day, they became more and more like Jesus, and the more they became like Jesus, the better equipped they were to do his will in the world.
Take some time today to reflect on Peter and Paul’s lives. Let their example show you how saying “yes” to God makes you more like Christ. let them show you how your ”yes” equips you to do his will on earth. Like them, you will surely face challenges. But like them, you will also experience God’s grace, comfort, and wisdom to help you every step of the say.
Peter and Paul’s “yes” to God changed the course of history. Ours can, too! Let’s use their feast day to inspire us on our journey.
Fr. Franco Pereira, S.D.B.