El Greco: Sts Peter and Paul
This weekend's Solemnity of the dual "super Apostles" Sts. Peter and Paul plays such a core role in the history of Christianity that whether one be Catholic or another tradition we all should bow our heads to these giants and the Spirit of God who worked so powerfully through them both. Yet, they obviously stood on clay feet along with the rest of us. Peter's impulsive yet well intentioned expressions of faith, at times with a fragile loyalty to Jesus and Paul's entrance to Apostleship at a later time (post resurrection), along with his hatred for Christians before his conversion, make us stop and wonder why God chose them for roles of such fundamental leadership in the Christian community.
Normally, we may think of Peter who represents basically the institutional branch of Christianity, and Catholicism in particular, with Jesus' words of today's Gospel Mt. 16: 13-19: "You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it . . ." Some say it was a reference to the "rock" of St. Peter's faith. However, Peter even after these profound words by Jesus, was not always a rock of faith. So, while his conviction was inspired of the Father, it is also his person (the Papacy) that provides the center focal point of the Catholic wheel.
And the great missionary spirit of the Church represented by St. Paul who carried the words of the Gospel to the Gentile world who speaks from his imprisonment in today's second reading from Timothy 4: 6-8, 17-18: "I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith."
Yet, both Peter and Paul were missionaries and institutional leaders in their own right, their personalities make them a contrast. The bold courage of their faith, tempered through human weakness, unites them. Their martyrdom, likely in the years 64 or 67 A.D. during the persecution of the blood lust of Emperor Nero, make them both courageous witnesses that solidified the foundation of Christ's Church for all time.
What can we learn from them about ourselves? Though they seem to be larger than life in some ways, we are called to no less. Each of us has a message to share; a Gospel to carry by the faithful witness of our lives to the Lord Jesus in a way that brings others to see that the Church is a living body, the living presence of the risen Lord in our world today.
Yes, the Church is flawed not because of God (after all Jesus stated this is "my Church") but because God for some mysterious reason has entrusted all of this to weak and at times sinful human beings. Yet, the Church will prevail, not because of us, but as it may seem at times in spite of us.
So, today may be an opportunity to thank God that you have embraced the Christian faith and are truly blessed to be Catholic. Rather than finding all the flaws of the Church, which seems to be a favorite pastime for some, celebrate and give thanks for all the good that we have seen and continue to see. We all have a responsibility to live up to what we profess and as God did for Peter and Paul, he will do for us. The Spirit of our baptism and our Confirmation, that living Spirit of God who speaks to us in the events of our lives and unites us in the Holy Eucharist through Christ's Church, and who sustains the truth of the Gospel will help us in all things.
O God, who on the Solemnity of the Apostles Peter and Paul
give us the noble and holy joy of this day,
grant, we pray, that your Church
may in all things follow the teaching
of those through whom she received
the beginnings of right religion.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
(Collect of Solemnity)