Ss Peter and Paul 1 Kgs 19:16B, 19-21; Ps 16; Gal 5:1, 13-18; Lk 9:51-62 (Year C)
The Preface for the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul honours them as those who, in their different ways, gathered together the one family of Christ. Peter is specifically honoured for his confession of faith and his gathering the remnant of Israel to the Lord. Paul is remembered for his tireless preaching which carried the Good News to all nations.
From a human perspective they could not have been more different. Peter had been a successful fisherman, his whole life absorbed in providing for his family and those who shared his boat. As a faithful Jew he would have seen himself as a follower rather than a leader in matters of religion.
Paul of Tarsus came from the sophistication of the Graeco-Roman world and its widening horizons. While remaining faithful to Judaism, he was clearly well versed in the language and ideas of this wider world. Far from being a follower, Paul had clearly considered himself to be a leader and defender of Israel’s ancient faith. Such self- assurance inevitably led to conflict with the early Christian community.
“As for the Law, I was a Pharisee; as for working for religion, I was a persecutor of the Church; as far as the Law can make you perfect, I was faultless.” Philippians 3: 5ff
Today we celebrate the grace that bridged the gulf between Peter and Paul, uniting them in their confession of Christ as their Risen Lord.
Peter’s journey had been initiated by the Lord’s insistent questioning: “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”
In response the other disciples either pointed to past prophets or remained silent. Only Peter responded with a generous and unguarded faith. “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
It was faith, rather than background and achievement, that enabled grace to build Peter into the foundation of the Church. That same faith would lead him through doubt and denial to a martyr’s crown.
Paul’s journey was different. The arrogance and hard-won certainties of his earlier days were surrendered in his encounter with the Risen Lord on the Road to Damascus. Here Paul came to understand that salvation can never be our own achievement. It is by faith alone, or through grace alone, that we are made one with the Father. The arrogance of achievement became the humility of faith.
“I have come to believe that nothing can happen that will outweigh the supreme advantage of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For him I have accepted the loss of everything if only I can have Christ and be given a place with him.”
Through faith, and with Peter and Paul, may we be given a place with the Lord.