SOLEMNITY OF ST. PETER AND ST. PAUL
Today we celebrate the two pillars of the Church and acknowledge their contribution to the gospel and historical narrative of which we are part. Two men coming from totally different backgrounds yet were called for a common mission and were drawn with the same passion towards the Church.
Let's take a look at a brief portrait of these two saints. St. Paul, a faithful Jew, highly educated and a leading Pharisee, did not experience Jesus in the flesh but rather the resurrected Christ. In his passion to defend his former religion of Judaism, he persecuted Christians until he encountered Christ on the way to Damascus. After his conversion, he became the Apostle to the Gentiles and preached the Good News to the world. He established the first early Christian communities and wrote almost a third of the New Testament books of the Bible.
Peter, formerly called Simon, was an ordinary fisherman, married and most probably not well educated. He was appointed by Jesus the first pope of the universal church: "You are Peter, and upon this "rock" I will build my Church." He also received the divine authority and power: "I shall give you the keys of the Kingdom, whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven, whatever you bind on earth will be considered bound in heaven." But the journey of Peter did not come easy, because as an ordinary man like many of us, he was weak, impulsive and arrogant. Let's take a look at two incidents in the life of Peter which showed his raw humanity: 1. When he saw Jesus walking on the water, he wanted to do the same. Gazing on Jesus he started to walk on the water, too but when he looked at the strong waves and winds, he began to sink. Jesus held him by the hands and pulled him up and said to him "You man of little faith." 2. After Jesus was arrested, when a girl thought that Peter was a companion of Jesus, Peter denied him three times saying "I do not know the man."
This was the same Peter who saw Jesus walking on water; who said he would give his life for Jesus; who witnessed him performing many miracles; who was there when Jesus was transfigured. Peter the fisherman before his conversion was a total failure!
But after the resurrection Jesus called Peter once again and asked him the three-fold questions: "do you love me?" Why three times? Because Peter denied Jesus three times. And so he had to respond "Yes Lord, I love you." three times, too. That was Peter's redemption. Jesus told him to translate that love into concrete actions and said to Peter "feed my sheep."
When we say we love God, it is more than just expressing it in words. The love of Peter and Paul to Jesus found expression in their love for the Church. Beyond all odds both of them worked zealously in laying down the foundation of the early Church. Both gave up their lives for the sake of their love for Jesus: Paul was beheaded while Peter was crucified upside down.
If Peter and Paul are the pillars of the Church of yesterday, we all are the building blocks that make up the Church of today. As one Body of Christ, we are called to continue to pass on the legacy of Peter and Paul to the next generations. Sharing the common bond of our love to Jesus that binds us as his disciples, we do not only respond emotionally to his question: "do you love me" but rather we translate our "yes, Lord I love you" in the way we live and even in the way we die.