Sts. Peter and Paul

In 07 Observations on 2014/08/29 at 12:00 AM

Detailed notes taken by Aida Tamayo on Fr. Robert Barron’s Catholicism Series

Peter and Paul were the indispensable men in Christianity, whose efforts allow the faith to emerge and survive.  I think I understand some of the reasons why these two men were chosen by God for their key roles in the founding of Christianity.  They possessed these most important attributes Our Lord needs in his followers, us included:

1. Love of God above all else.  Both Peter and Paul knew that the purpose of our existence is to be in union with God.

2. Passion for the faith.  They served God with passion. Lukewarm individuals displease God. Revelation 3:15-16 states that halfhearted commitment to the faith is nauseating to Christ.

3. Total Surrender.  Paul summarizes this well when he said in Galatians 2:20: I live; yet now, it is not I, but truly Christ, who lives in me. And though I live now in the flesh, I live in the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and who delivered himself for me.

Peter is the Rock, the one to whom the Spirit revealed the true identity of Christ and the one chosen by Christ Himself to be the earthly head of the  Church.  From Peter’s lips comes that remarkable phrase, “you are the son of the living God”, not because he figured it out but because God the Father through the Holy Spirit revealed it to him.  The church rests upon this revelation to Peter and became the rock upon which the church was built. Paul was the first great Christian theologian who fully understood the implications of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.  These two men were so relevant to the faith that today all bishops of the world visit Rome once every 5 years to pray at their tombs to draw strength from them.

PETER – Peter was born Shimeon bar Johannon, Simon son of John.   He was from an uneducated “middle class” a fisherman by trade and he did business with the Romans as well.  One fine day Jeshua  from Nazareth came to Capernaum and getting into Peter’s boat he told him to put out into deep water and throw the nets for a catch.  That miraculous catch changed Peter’s life forever.  From my own experience, that is how it always goes with Jesus, when he gets into your boat He will take you into deep waters.

Peter was at every big event of Jesus’ ministry and Peter loved the Lord above all.  This is how we all come to know Jesus by falling in love with Him, the way Peter did.  We all know Peter’s 3 denials, but we also know the 3 times he reaffirmed his love for the Lord at the Sea of Galilee after the resurrection.  Peter was a sinner like all saints.  The difference between the saints and the rest of us is that the saints are moving towards the light and they see the stain in their souls.  Enlightened by God’s light, they know who they truly are, they know their flaws and they are at work to control the disordered attachments, passions and appetites.  They also surrender to God since the task is not doable without God’s grace. And yes, we are called to do this.

PETER’s MISSION – On Pentecost, Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit and he spoke so eloquently of the Lord, his Passion and Resurrection, that those that heard him were cut to the heart.  It is the task of Peter’s successors (Popes) to witness in this manner to the Resurrection of Jesus. Peter went to Rome around the year 50 guided by the Spirit.  Why? He knew that Jesus was Lord of all Nations and so he went to proclaim Jesus at the heart of the most powerful nation of the day.  He was the most prominent victim of Nero’s persecution of Christians.  But we are left with his witness and the knowledge that Christianity is not a set of convictions, it is totally based on one person, Jeshua of Nazareth, Lord of all and the one that Peter touch with his hands, and heard with his ears and for whom he was ultimately crucified.

PAUL – Paul was born Sha’ul, around the year 10 in Tarsus, a mixture of Jewish and Greek background and at one point became a Roman citizen making him a particularly apt bearer of the message of the God of Israel to the known world. He was a scholar in Greek Philosophy and studied scripture under the most renowned rabbi’s of his day. He became zealous of Judaism and was passionately set against the new Christians whom he perceived to be renegade unfaithful Jews. The first reference of Saul in scripture is related to the death of Stephen the first martyr of Christianity.

CONVERSION AND MISSION.  Saul was in his mid-20s persecuting Christians when he encountered the risen Lord on the road to Damascus. The conversion was not immediate. In Ephesians, Paul said that no one taught him about Jesus and he hadn’t been schooled in Jesus’ message.  After his Baptism, it is believed that Paul went to Saudi Arabia.  Jesus revealed himself to Paul during the time between Paul’s baptism and the beginning of his preaching, which could have been as much as three years.  (cf. Eph 1:11-21). It is not that Paul changed religions, it is that everything that Paul knew about the God of Israel was being reassessed in light of the Risen Lord and Messiah. He started to preach when he understood that this amazing truth had to be told to both Jews and gentiles.  He felt specially commissioned by Jesus and with boundless energy and passion he set off to tell anyone about salvation through the Risen Lord. Paul way of preaching the faith was subversive and explosive and that is authentic Christian proclamation.   If our proclamation of the faith is tepid and uninspiring then it is not being done correctly.

THE RESURRECTION – KEY TO THE MISSION.  The resurrection of Jesus from the dead was the validation of his Messianic claim and the grounds for Paul’s declaration of Jesus as the kyrios, the Lord and Judge of the world.  His message was that the crucified Jesus of Nazareth arose bodily from the realm of the dead and exists now in a transfigured physicality. He was specific in the message and in his letters he identifies people that saw the resurrected Lord as reference for those listening to his words and wished to validate the truth of the statement. How important was the resurrection for Paul. In Corinthians he said: if Jesus had not been raised your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Paul knows that what he is saying is being taken as folly by the Greek and as an insult for the Jews.  A 30-year old man dying on an instrument of torture saying: God why have you forsaken me?  But He is the true God.  God did not raise anyone else from the dead in a glorious body.  He raised Jesus and this is where the True God is revealed. This is the dynamite of Paul.

FAITH ACCORDING TO PAUL – Faith is the first step for Paul because it is through faith that we are justified. Faith means trust and confidence in turning one’s life to the power of Christ. Paul knows our troubles begin when we lack faith.  You see Adam and Eve grasping at the fruit of the tree, grasping at godliness making themselves the center.  With that self-centeredness, our world begins to close into a very small space of the soul.  Faith is the turning over of ourselves to a power that stretches infinitely beyond us.

LOVE.  Paul said from the virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity (LOVE), Love is the most important one.  FAITH and HOPE will cease when we enter eternity but those that enter heaven in friendship with God, will live in eternal LOVE with God.  However, that love must begin here and now assisted by the virtues of faith and hope.  That is why Paul insists that we must fully participate in Christ and that only happens when we conform unto His Love.  The relationship between faith and love is explained magnificently by Paul in 1 Corinthians Ch 13 when the community was getting away from this essential truth of love.  Paul’s message is, all the actions towards God, done without LOVE, count for nothing. This is true because God is Love.  He is the Divine Love and the whole point of spirituality and of the Divine life.  Therefore to have all the accompaniments of the Divine Life without the essence itself (love) it counts for nothing.


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