Acts 12:1-11; 2Tim 4:6-8, 17-18; Matt 16:13-19
Today we are celebrating the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul even though their personalities and missions were so different. This feast day commemorates the martyrdom of the two great Apostles assigned by tradition to the same day of June. Although Saints Peter and Paul probably died at different dates under Nero who ordered the persecution of Christians throughout the Roman Empire in the First Century, they are venerated together on June 29. They had been imprisoned in the famous Mamertine Prison of Rome and both had foreseen their approaching death. There must be a reason why we celebrate both the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, a reason other than Peter and Paul. It is because we already have a feast in honor of the Chair of Peter. We already have a feast in honor of the Conversion of St. Paul. Peter and Paul, in their lifetime they did not work so closely together. And so, why we celebrate this feast to honor them both? How can we compare these two super apostles? It is like these:
St. Peter was also named as Simon and Cephas. St. Paul was also known as Saul.
St. Pater was a native of Galilee like Our Lord while St. Paul at Tarsus, Cilicia (modern Turkey).
St. Pater was a poor man, rugged, unlearned and far from being a theological expert but candid, eager and loving. In his heart, first of all, his conviction grew and then from his lips came the spontaneous confession: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God!” And St. Paul was a tent-maker by trade and a Talmudic student. He had a different image with that of Peter. He was truly a different personality, smart, refined, learned, gifted with words, alert and far-reaching.
St. Peter was a simple fisherman and the brother of Saint Andrew, the Apostle who led him to Christ. St. Paul was a Pharisee.
St. Pater was renamed ‘Peter’ (or rock) by Jesus to indicate that he would be the rock-like foundation on which the Church would be built. He was the Prince of the Apostles because he is the center and indispensable bond of the Church’s unity, the unique channel of all spiritual powers, the guardian and unerring teacher of His truth. Jesus chose him as our stable anchor on earth and the rock. We find in our Church stability and hope and focus in a world becoming all the more confused. St. Paul is the Runner of the Race because he was on the move: the act of being mobile in the world, of extending the Kingdom to the gentile world which was the most important decision ever made in the Church. To go out to the world, while holding the stable Church in place as a destination, direction, home and haven. Paul became the mobile element and this is why his imagery was so often the athletic.
St. Peter was called directly by Jesus and given “the keys of the kingdom” (Matt 16:16-18). He is portrayed in icons carrying the keys. On the other hand, St. Paul was probably never met Jesus face to face. He was once a persecutor of the church and his conversion came about through a vision on the road to Damascus. He hated and persecuted Christians as heretical, even assisting at the stoning of Saint Stephen the Martyr. On his way to Damascus to arrest another group of them, he was knocked to the ground, struck blind by a heavenly light and given the message that in persecuting Christians, he was persecuting Christ. The experience had a profound spiritual effect on him, causing his conversion to Christianity. He was baptized, changed his name to Paul to reflect his new persona, and began travelling and preaching. His inspiration and his style of presenting the gospel came from visions and charismatic experiences. He is portrayed in icons carrying either a sword or a book.
That is, Paul had to get knocked off a horse and spend days blinded to what had been his life before he came to the understanding that the answer to the question “who do you say I am” is “my Lord and my God.”
Peter had to pass through the trial and error of a follower who slowly realized that the person before them is much more than meets the eye. Peter, awakened, says today “you are the Christ, the Son of the Living God”.
Saints Peter and Paul were so different that St. Peter was surnamed the Apostle of the Jews and St. Paul the Apostle of the Gentiles. St. Paul once had a public disagreement with St. Peter on whether Jewish Christians could eat together with Gentile Christians (Gal 2).
But both of them died as martyrs. St. Peter crucified with head downward because he claimed he was not worthy to die in the same manner as Christ and also because he was not a Roman citizen, therefore, he merited with no special favor. St. Paul was excused from crucifixion and died through beheading because he was a Roman citizen and so he was given the ‘honor’ of beheading by a sword. Both of them died in Rome, Italy.
Both Peter and Paul come to see that Jesus is not simply a way to live life. Jesus is life!
Even if they are different they are needed in the Church because both of them are complementary with each other. We need stability (St. Peter) and mobility (St. Paul). Both gifts are needed and that is what makes it important to see these ways as like the body parts all working for one. We are a community of persons and some of us like to travel to and fro as missionaries and yet some of us like to stay at homes.
Just as the Lord called Saint Peter and Saint Paul in different ways, we are also called in many different ways to follow the Lord throughout our lives. Let us not ignore the call of the Lord. Let us listen to his call and answer generously. Like Saint Paul, let us fight the good fight, racing towards the finish line, while persevering in our faith.
See Today’s Readings: Feast of Saints Peter and Paul
Back to: Saints and Solemnities
OPTION 01, 02, 03,