Posted by: Fr Chris | June 28, 2019

Saints Peter & Paul, June 29

Glory to Jesus Christ!    I am going to do a compare and contrast today:

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Simon: successful businessman, impetuous, emotional, Galilean Jew – the Pharisees said of the Galilean Jews that they did not know the Law because they lived mixed with pagans. Peter was married, and tradition says that he and his wife had daughters, whom he left in Antioch.

Saul, Roman citizen from the colony of Tarsus well educated both in Scripture and Greco-Roman culture, logical, fervent Jew who persecuted first Christians. Saul was not married, and would remain celibate as an apostle.

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Jesus changes Simon’s name to Peter, which means rock. The significance of this name change became evident only later when Jesus Christ, praising Peter’s faith, said: “You are Peter (the rock), and on this rock I will build my Church; and the gates (powers) of hell shall not prevail against it” (Mt. 16:18). A banner with that inscription stood by the High Altar in the church of Saint Louis of the French, in Moscow, a church next to a former office building that became the headquarters of the Soviet secret police. Talk about the gates of hell!

Saint Louis of the French, Moscow

 On this same occasion, Jesus promised Peter supreme authority in His Church, saying: “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you will bind on earth it shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you will loose on earth it shall be loosed in heaven” (Mt. 16:19). This supreme authority given to Peter was extended also to matters of faith before the Passion:

The primacy of Peter is once again implied in the promise made to him on the eve of the passion. Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.

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When you sift grain, the bad grain is thrown out, only the good grain goes into the basket. In the same way, the faith of the apostles was to be violently disturbed by the great ordeal when they abandon Jesus, and Peter denies Christ. Their leader would not be overcome completely, and once he had returned to his original loyalty after the Resurrection, he would strengthen his brethren and direct them in their faith.

Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls - Colosseum Rome Tickets

Saint Paul’s Basilica, Rome

Paul, known as Saul as a Jew, received his education at the feet of the celebrated Rabbi Gamaliel in Jerusalem and was a member of the Pharisee sect (Phil. 3:5). In his zeal to the Mosaic law, he persecuted the Church. However, by the direct intervention of Christ (Act 9:1-19), he soon converted to Christianity and became a leading champion of the Gospel. He then went by his Roman name, Paulus. Paul’s three extended missionary journeys and his epistles testify to his unsurpassed apostolic zeal. Finally, in the winter of 61 A.D., he reached Rome as a prisoner.

The Epistles of St. Clement  say that after Paul’s release from the Roman prison, he journeyed “to the limits of the West” (cf.), i.e. to Spain, fulfilling his long- lasting desire (Rom. 15:24). He then revisited his missionary territory of Asia Minor, leaving Titus in Crete (Tit. 1:5) and Timothy in Ephesus (I Tim 1:3) with full episcopal authority “to accomplish what had been undone.” Paul returned to Rome where, during the persecution under Nero, he was arrested and, in all probability, he was beheaded in 67 A.D, according to the tradition in Rome he and Peter were both killed on this day, June 29. For Paul, life was Christ, and dying “the gain” (Phil. 1:21).

Holy Apostles Peter and Paul – Damascene Gallery

Thus, if Peter was the first among the Apostles because of his authority, Paul was equally first among the Apostles because of his apostolic labor. Therefore, in the Byzantine Liturgy their feasts are celebrated together as “the first among the Apostles.”

Blessed and Holy Solemnity of Sts Peter and Paul – 29 June – AnaStpaul

In the vespers and matins for this day the Peter and Paul are glorified, as “friends of Christ”, “of the heavenly recesses”, “rivers of knowledge”, “feeders of the entire inhabited world”, “preachers of true piety”, “intercessors for the whole world”, “disciples of Christ and founders of the Church, true pillars and walls, and trumpets of the doctrine and suffering of the divine Christ, “fishers of the world” “possessors of the keys of the Kingdom”, “prototypes of the preachers of God”, “chiefs of the Apostles.”

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Peter was confirmed in his dignity later by our Lord after his resurrection – it was after his triumph that the Church was to show signs of autonomous life. We know the dialogue which was exchanged on the banks of the Sea of Tiberias amid the splendor of the rising sun. The Master wanted to make it clear to Simon by his thrice-repeated question of Do you love Me? that his office demanded a greater degree of love: the leader, more than anyone, must share the infinite charity of the supreme head. His official title was “shepherd.” God called himself the shepherd of his people and gave the same title to the prophets, and especially to the Messiah. Jesus also described himself as the “good shepherd,” proving his love for his flock by the sacrifice of his life. He made Peter his colleague and deputy in this pastoral ministry, which included the care and direction of the faithful.

Acts 9 – Paul’s Blindness | Reading Acts

As for St Paul Scripture tells us that he is on his way to arrest yet more believers, when suddenly a light shines around him and he hears a voice saying, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” Then Saul asks, “Who are you, sir?” The voice answers, “I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting” (Acts 9: 1-22).

Notice – Saul is persecuting the Church – and yet the voice says, “I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting.” Christ and the Church – are the same, the Church is the Body of Christ. And the Church, the Body of Christ, is entrusted with the message to the world, of how one should not only believe, but also live and act, with Christ, in imitation of Christ, in love with Christ.

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But there is one more thing to be said if we are to live and act as Jesus. It is not enough “just” to love God. It is not enough to love ourselves, too. We must also love everyone for whom Christ died. There lies the great challenge in daily life – to love not only the person who just cut me off in traffic, but also the one who causes me pain. Jesus loved Peter, despite the pain that Peter caused in his denial of Jesus. Jesus loved Saul, even while he was hurting Jesus by persecuting His Body the Church. Christ’s self-sacrificing love unites these two very different men, bringing them to Rome, to testify at what was the heart of the known world, as to Who Jesus is, and why Jesus has come into the world. Rooted in Christ-like love, they were able to overcome their differences and work together for God’s glory. So too in the Church – there are different Churches within the Catholic Church: Roman, Byzantine, Coptic, Armenian, Syriac, from Eastern Europe to Africa to India and now all around the world. The richness of the Catholic Faith exists so as to bring souls into the Body of Christ, to lead souls into the embrace of Christ, to guide souls along the narrow road and into the gate that leads to paradise. We are all different individuals, we can come from radically different liturgical families – one may love Glory and Praise music, one may love ancient Byzantine chant – but all are brought together to sing, pray, teach, worship, and lead in one marvelous symphony of the Catholic Faith. Just as Peter and Paul lit the ancient world on fire, preaching to Jew and Gentile, so too must we set the world on fire anew in every generation, using all of the blessings and strengths that are given to us as members of this Body, the Body of Christ on earth, within Christ’s Church.

Christ is among us.

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Saint Peter’s Square embraces the world 

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