Scripture: lectionary 591. June 29. Solemnity of the Apostles Peter and Paul. Acts 12:1-11. Psalm 34:2-3,4-5,6-7, 8-9. II Timothy 4:6-8.17-18. Matthew 16:13-19:
We celebrate two great apostles of Jesus who were the great heralds of Jesus to everyone. Paul is known as the light to the nations; the apostle to the Gentiles. Both witnessed throughout their lives and were martyred in the decade of the sixties, some thirty years after Jesus’ death. They are the apostles who built the foundations for the early Christian churches especially the Church of Jerusalem and that of Antioch.
They followed James the son of Zebedee and Stephen in their martyrdom and were among the first martyrs to be honored. The cities of Rome, Jerusalem, and Antioch are also to be remembered as we honor these holy apostles and martyrs.
Perhaps, Mark, the first Gospel written, is the one that gives us more historical information on Peter than the others. He is traditionally said to be a follower of Peter who took notes of what Peter preached. Mark also may have written his Gospel for the Church of Rome. Matthew, however, in today’s Gospel reading is the one who describes the vocation and mission of Peter in the changing of his name to Rock (Cephas in Aramaic, Petrus in Latin). He is confirmed by Jesus as the Rock upon which the Church will be built. We Catholics continue his confirmation in the same role through the popes even though the term was not clearly used until the late third century.
Paul is able to speak for himself through his letters and we have the personal account in Galatians and in Philippians. We see his goal has been achieved in what we read from II Timothy today. Both Paul and Peter are the apostles who are featured in the Acts of the Apostles written by Luke.
Through the doctrine of the Communion of Saints we celebrate their entrance into heaven and are able to call upon them who now are united with Christ and his concerns for the salvation of all. We are all united in faith to them and as Catholics trust that our saintly friends have an interest in us in our journies of faith and help us when we call upon them and remember their great examples of love and dedication. How much more effective is their influence upon us through their glorification in heaven than their efforts on earth which were confirmed with their new life in heaven.
Finally, as early as the year 400 St. Augustine had this excellent ending to one of his sermons on this feast: “Both apostles share the same feast day, for these two were one ;and even though they suffered on different days, they were as one. Peter went first, and Paul followed. And so we celebrate this day made holy for us by the apostles’ blood. Let us embrace what they believed, their life, their labors, their sufferings, their preaching and confession of faith.” (Sermon 295). Amen.
Copyright 2012 Fr. Bertand Buby, S.M.