Homily for the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul
Today, we celebrate the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, the two greatest apostles of the Church. The reason these two saints are celebrated together is because the tradition of the Church holds that they were martyred together on this date sometime between 64 and 68 AD at the hands of Emperor Nero.
But these two apostles were important for different reasons in the life of the early Church. We know that Christ told Peter that he was the rock on which the Church would be built. As the first Pope, it was his responsibility to keep the Church united which was growing so quickly as the message of the Gospel spread throughout the ancient world.
Paul, on the other hand, a Jewish convert to the faith – we all know his conversion story of being thrown from his horse by a bright light and being formed in the faith by Ananias – became the greatest teacher of the faith to those who were not Jewish, that’s why he is called the apostle to the Gentiles. His preaching was incredibly successful and, because of that, he brought many non-Jews into the Church. In fact, we might say that it is because of St. Paul that most of us are Catholic.
So, in the life of the early Church, both of these saints played a significant role: Peter maintaining its unity and Paul primarily teaching and evangelizing.
In today’s time, each of these men should be an example for us. There is a lot of division and disunity present currently in the world and sadly that has invaded the Church. Peter should be an example that encourages us to work together to bring about harmony in the world and in the Church, striving to work together to make the Gospel message heard throughout the world and bringing our fellow Christians together in our common love of the Lord. But our world is also extremely lost and confused right now and so many people are looking for Truth – they’re looking for meaning and purpose. Paul should encourage us to go out and proclaim the one Truth – Jesus Christ. He should be an example that leads us to go out and evangelize, sharing with others how Jesus has changed our lives. But we can only do that if Jesus has, in fact, changed our lives.
Have we made Peter’s confession of faith in the Gospel our own? If Jesus were to appear to us in the flesh this morning and ask, “Who do you say that I am?”, would we be able to say: “You are the Christ, Son of the living God”? Have we had an encounter with the Lord that has brought us to believe that Jesus is who He says He is? In what ways do we not believe that? We all have areas of our lives that we don’t allow Jesus into. By doing that, in some ways, we’re telling the Lord that we don’t believe you are the Christ.
So today, as we receive the Lord in the Eucharist, let’s invite him into every area of our hearts so that we can have a deeper encounter with the Lord of heaven and earth. Let’s ask Him to enter into our hearts so that we can be brought to our own moments of conversion and proclaim as Peter did, “You are the Christ, Son of the living God.”