Sts. Peter and Paul

In 05 Homilies by Fr. Reid on 2016/04/24 at 12:00 AM


  •  This custom of honoring these two saints together on a single feast day is ancient, dating back at least to the middle of the 3rd century.
  • As is the case with so many saints who worked together, over the centuries there has been a considerable amount of artwork featuring these two saints together.
  • Oftentimes artwork depicting these two saints together shows them with their arms or hands touching, or as is sometimes the case with Orthodox icons, their cheeks will be touching.
  • Of course the point of this type of art is to show the closeness of these two saints, despite their differences and disagreements that Scripture highlights for us. St. Peter and St. Paul were like brothers!
  • Whatever their differences of opinion on matters concerning the spread of the Gospel, we do know that St. Peter and St. Paul shared one very important characteristic in common: they were both men who repented of very serious sin against our Lord in order to serve Him – even serving our Lord to the point of dying for Him.
  • After boasting that he would die for Jesus, St. Peter, as we know, denied our Lord three times after His arrest, being called to repentance by the cock’s crow.
  • And let us not forget that before he was blinded by our Lord on the road to Damascus, the erstwhile Saul was the enemy of the early Christians, even being present for the brutal yet glorious death of the Church’s first martyr: St. Stephen.
  • St. Peter was a coward. St. Paul was a murderer. But despite their terrible sins, both Peter and Paul were humble enough to accept God’s mercy and change their lives.
  • In doing so, they remind us never to despair of God’s mercy in our sinfulness, but to remember that conversion is always possible – no matter how serious our sins may be.
  • And in accepting God’s mercy, Sts. Peter and Paul ultimately became great vessels of God’s mercy. Indeed Sts. Peter and Paul were uniquely important to the foundation and spreading of our Catholic faith, and thus we owe them a debt of gratitude.
  • Along with our Lady, St. Joseph and St. John the Baptist, St. Peter and St. Paul comprise a very select group of saints who form a vital part of our salvation history. Their roles in salvation history are unique and completely necessary. Simply put, the Church would not be what she is today without these two very important saints.
  • The Gospels tell us that St. Peter is the first of the apostles to recognize Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the living God. In turn, Jesus declares Peter to be the rock upon which the Church is founded. Thus, as we know, St. Peter becomes the first pope of our church.
  • In keeping with this passage of Scripture, St. Peter is often depicted in art with a set of keys in his hands. It was he who was the indisputable leader of the early Church and thus directed the Church in her first three decades of existence.
  • St. Paul, on the other hand, is the Church’s fearless preacher. While St. Peter was leading the early Church, St. Paul was evangelizing the Mediterranean world. We also know St. Paul for his close association to Scripture.
  • Not only is the New Testament largely composed of his letters to the various Christian communities he evangelized, but he more than any other apostle preached the Gospel in season and out of season, when it was convenient and inconvenient.
  • As St. Peter is generally depicted in art holding keys, St. Paul is generally depicted holding a book of Scripture as well as a sword, a reminder of St. Paul’s belief that the Word of God is a two-edged sword; the sword is also a reminder of how St. Paul was martyred.
  • Someday I hope to have marble statues of each of them outside of our church!
  • We call our Church the Roman Catholic Church, and this is in large part because of Sts. Peterand Paul. While the Church was founded in Jerusalem, it was Peter and Paul who, following the guidance of the Holy Spirit, decided to make the capital of the Empire the center of the Christian world.
  • And together they labored in Rome to firmly establish the Church there and make it the locus from which the evangelization of the entire world should emanate. But theirs was not an easy task, and both men suffered greatly.
  • The readings today attest to the sufferings of these two apostles. We know from Sacred Scripture that both were imprisoned for the sake of the Gospel.
  • Eventually, both men were martyred for the Catholic faith, probably around 66 or 67 AD. St. Peter was crucified upside down near the present day site of the Vatican, while St. Paul was beheaded on the Via Ostia, a road on the outskirts of Rome.
  • Without a doubt the blood of these two martyrs was the seedbed of the Catholic faith in Rome, and thus of the entire Church. And now they sit in Heaven, interceding for the Church as Her guardians and guides.
  • As we examine the lives of Sts. Peter and Paul, what we learn from them is that our Catholic faith is worth suffering for. They teach us that our Catholic faith is the pearl of great price that we read about in Scripture, and both of them gave all they had – including their very lives – not only to live the faith themselves, but to make sure that we could live it too.
  • We live in an age, my friends, in which our faith is highly scrutinized and even ridiculed by secularists, which is not unlike the world that Sts. Peter and Paul labored in. To many people our Catholic faith is not only outdated and unfashionable, but dangerous.
  • There may even come a time in our own country when our faith will be criminalized, just as it was in the early centuries of the Church. As we’ve seen in the past couple of years with the HHS mandate, our right to practice our faith fully in this country is being jeopardized.
  • I fear this type of persecution will only grow worse as more and more renegade federal judges in our strike country strike down bans on gay marriage.
  • Make no mistake about it: as the demand for gay rights gains steam in our country, those of us who hold fast to our Church’s teaching on the sanctity of marriage and the marital act will most likely find ourselves being told that we are not allowed to stand firm for the truth without consequence.
  • There are even those who would set up a false dichotomy between our faith and reason, especially in the area of science – saying that our faith and reason are incompatible. And yet St. Peter and St. Paul, the apostles upon whom our faith was built, teach us that there is nothing good, nothing beautiful, and nothing true in this world that is foreign to Catholicism.
  • They teach us that our faith is universal – that it is for everyone – because it embraces all that is true, all that is good and all that is beautiful in this world. Moreover, to say that our faith is universal is also to recognize the wholeness of our faith.
  • You see, Catholicism is not just one faith amongst many varieties of Christianity, it is Christianity unadulterated and in its fullness, and we should never be ashamed to profess that.
  • Our Church was founded by Christ Himself, upon the rock that is St. Peter and spread through the preaching of St. Paul. Only the Catholic Church has preserved the fullness of the revelation of Christ.
  • I say this not to denigrate our non-Catholic brothers and sisters who share our faith in Christ, but simply to remind us of how blessed we are to be Catholic. And of course without the labors of Sts. Peter and Paul, we would not be enjoying this blessing today.
  • As we continue our worship of God today, let us give thanks to God for the blessings of our faith, and let us give thanks to Sts. Peter and Paul who have made this faith possible for us.
  • St. Peter and St. Paul, pray for us.

© Reverend Timothy Reid

Fr. Reid is the pastor of St. Ann Catholic Church, Charlotte, NC

Homilies from June 17, 2012 onward have audio.
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