Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul
Malvern Minute

 

Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul

June 29, 2020

Deacon Anthony J. Cincotta

Assistant Director for Retreat Ministry

 

Acts of the Apostles 12:1-11

Psalm 34

Second Letter of Saint Paul to Timothy 4:6-8, 17-18

Matthew 16:13-19

 

Today, throughout the universal Church, we celebrate the “Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul,” companions and spiritual brothers.  In fact these two men are often called the founding pillars of Christianity.  Peter is seen as the “Rock,” the steady one at the center, the leader of the Jewish Christian community in Jerusalem, Antioch and of course Rome.  Paul is the one sent to the outskirts in order to bring the Good News to the Gentiles in Galatia, Athens and Thessalonica.  They were men of the same brotherhood, men who believed in the same ideals and ideas on how to proceed with the great commission of expanding Jesus’ Church.  Well, no, not really.  In fact on many occasions Paul wrote in his letters about the conflict between these two great saints.  I wonder if they would have had a closer relationship if they lived in a world filled with the technological advantages that we enjoy in our world.  For example:

If only Peter was on “Facebook.”  He would have had tons of friends.  People from all over the world could have seen pictures of him entering Rome, standing in the forum, waving from his seat at the coliseum and eating gelato at the chariot races.  People as far away as China and the New World could have read his sermons.

If only Paul could have “tweeted.”  He too would have had followers from everywhere.  They could have read his reactions to the Galatians returning to Judaism in only 140 words or less.  He would have had to condense his Letters to the Romans a bit, or extend it over a few hundred tweets, but he still would have been extremely popular.

But Peter did not have Facebook and Paul did not have a Twitter account.  At most they had a pair of sandals on their feet and a walking stick in their hands.  Still, they knew exactly how to get the Gospel message of Jesus out to all of the people that they met.

We honor these two great saints for the very reason I mentioned.  They were indeed two of the founding pillars of Christianity.  But their individual journeys in their life in Christ were completely different:

Simon, son of Jonah, was born in Galilee and was by trade a fisherman.  We all know how Jesus recruited Simon and his brother Andrew to become apostles.  Our Lord changed Simon’s name to Peter and this act has great meaning.  In Aramaic, the language that was spoken in Palestine at the time of Jesus, the name “Peter” and the word “Rock” were actually the same word, “Kepha.”  So when Jesus changed Simon to Peter He actually said, “Your are Kepha and on this Kepha I will build my Church!”  Doesn’t have the same ring as “Peter,” does it?  Of course Jesus Himself is the foundation stone on which the Church is founded, but the Pope, in this case Peter, is the visible human head of the Church on earth.  The Papacy is an office and a vocation founded by Jesus to guide the Church.  Peter is the first Pope – Pope Francis, his successor, is the 266th

But how important was Peter to the early Church?  We see the unique vocation of this former “fisherman” who has become a “fisher of men.”  Peter as an apostle of Christ is always there to strengthen his brothers.  Whenever the Gospels list the apostles they always place Peter’s name first in order to signify his leadership role among the twelve and in the Church.  It was Peter who decided that Judas had to be replaced in order to bring the number of apostles back to twelve.  It was Peter who preached at Pentecost.  Finally, Jesus gave Peter the authority to make decisions for the Church as we heard in today’s Gospel narrative, “Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” 

Saul of Tarsus who was born around AD 5 had a much different journey than Simon Peter.  We know him as a Jew and citizen of Rome and a persecutor of Christians.  As a matter fact, it became his obsession and even his vocation to attack those who followed Christ.  We know of his participation at the martyrdom of Saint Stephen, Deacon, and first martyr of the faith.  Saul’s conversion to Christianity and his apostolic life became one of legend and significance to all who believe in the Good News of Jesus.  If Saul can amend his former life in order to live a “Christ-like-life” then all who hear Jesus’ Words can do the same.

It has been said that Saul was “small” in stature.  So it may be a bit ironic that when his name was changed to Paul, which in Latin is pronounced “Paulus” which translates to “little.”  But his size did not deter him from becoming a “fiery” speaker and many people listened to his words and read his letters.  The people he spoke to not only became followers of the New Way of life but became disciples of Paul and often gave up their lives for the sake of our Lord Jesus.  Paul gave to them the Holy Spirit which he received at his conversion. 

Both Peter and Paul continued their apostolic life until their individual martyrdoms.  They both died in Rome in the year AD 67.  Peter by crucifixion (with his head down on the cross) and Paul who was said to have been beheaded.

The power that Saints Peter and Paul had to spread the Good News of the Gospel has been given to each of us.  We too have received the Holy Spirit.  We too can be witnesses to Jesus Christ.  Others can see Christ in us and through our individual works and especially in our work of charity.  Today let us all pray that through the intercession of these two great saints of our Church we might have the determination and the courage to proclaim Jesus to anyone and everyone.

By the way, Saints Peter and Paul did not have Facebook and Twitter accounts.  They didn’t need them and neither do we.  We have what they had.  We have God, the Holy Spirit.

Question of the Day:  How will you continue the apostolic tradition set forth by Saints Peter and Paul?

Prayer:  Lord God, You give us holy joy as we celebrate the solemnity of the Apostles Saints Peter and Paul.  Grant that Your Church may follow their teaching and example in all things, for it is through them that Christianity began its development.  Amen.  (From “Lives of the Saints, Illustrated”) 

Please continue to pray for the victims of the Coronavirus and for all who are affected by this unprecedented pandemic as well as for peace in our country and in our world.

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