Saturday, June 28, 2014
Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul (replaces 13th Sunday of Ordinary Time)
One of the greatest blessings from my time in seminary was the opportunity to travel to both the Holy Land and to Rome.
During the course of my time in the Holy Land I remember asking myself a question: “Why is it that the center of our Catholic Church is in Rome when Jesus’ activities were centered around Jerusalem?” Socio-political factors aside, Rome is now our Catholic eternal city because of the men we celebrate today: St. Peter and St. Paul.
It would be difficult to overemphasize the importance of these two apostles in the life of our Church. It is worth noting that we all know their names nearly 2000 years after they lived. They both established churches that are still around today. They wrote documents that are now considered canonical and are read by millions around the world in a multitude of different languages.
While Peter and Paul share the feast day (a solemnity which is so great it is even celebrated on Sunday), they were very different men with very different experiences of Jesus. Peter was an intimate follower of Jesus on a daily basis. Paul never met Jesus in person yet had a mystical experience of Christ that literally knocked him to the ground. Peter was a simple fisherman while Paul was a learned member of the Pharisees. Peter worked mostly with Jewish-Christians; Paul was sent to the Gentiles. While they worked together to build the Church, at one point they had a sharp and public disagreement.
One characteristic both Peter and Paul shared was their sin and weakness that forced them to rely entirely on Christ. While Peter was quick to say he would die before rejecting Christ, he denied Jesus three times. Paul consented to the arrest and death of Christians and on more than one occasion shared with the early churches his weakness with an interior struggle. These men, in and of themselves, were not great—they were weak. Yet as St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “…when I am weak, then I am strong.”
The way God used Peter and Paul in the Church shows how He can use us today. Some of us, like Peter, have been walking with Jesus on a daily basis our whole lives—many here are cradle Catholics. Others, like Paul, have had an intense spiritual experience or have come through hitting rock bottom to have a 180-degree conversion to the Lord. Neither path is better or worse than the other, and God needs both Peters and Pauls today to do His work!
Our Church’s center is in Rome because this is where their earthly ministry came to an end. Both were arrested under the Emperor Nero and executed for the faith. These two weak men, coming from obscure backgrounds in Palestine, found power in Christ to shed their blood for him…Paul was beheaded and Peter was crucified upside down.
These two great apostles showed the power of Christ in their earthly work and, along with countless martyrs, shed their blood to be the seedbed of our Christian faith.
Sts. Peter and Paul, pray for us!