We Owe So Much To These Two Men

Saints Peter and Paul

Feast Day: 29th June

Today we honour the two greatest saints of the Catholic Church who were crucial in establishing it as a worldwide faith. Their influence has continued to present times.

“Follow Me” were Jesus' first words to Simon Peter; His last to him were “You follow Me”. Every step of the way between Peter never failed to try and follow Jesus – even though he often stumbled.

When Jesus entered Peter’s life, this plain fisherman became a new person with new goals and priorities. He did not become a perfect person, however, and he never stopped being Simon Peter. He often spoke without thinking; was brash and impulsive. We may wonder what Jesus saw in Simon that made him greet this potential disciple with a new name – Peter, the “rock” - who certainly didn’t act like one much of the time. But when Jesus chose His followers He was looking for real people, for those who could be changed by His love and then sent out to proclaim that His acceptance was available to anyone – even those who often fail.

We can learn from Peter that enthusiasm has to be backed by faith and love or it fails; that God’s faithfulness can compensate for our greatest unfaithfulness; that it is better to be a follower of Jesus than one who fails to follow.

Peter denied Jesus through fear but how wonderfully he made up for the threefold denial by his threefold profession of love, “Lord, you know all things. You know that I love You.” It was this man whom Jesus chose to be our first Pope.

Given our sinfulness and unworthiness we may wonder what Jesus sees in us when he calls us to follow Him. We know He accepted Peter in spite of his failure but Peter went on to do great things for God. Are we willing to keep following Jesus, even when we fail?

No person, apart from Jesus Himself, shaped the history of Christianity like the apostle Paul, whose personal encounter with Jesus, when he was intent upon the persecution of Christians, changed his life. He never lost his fierce intensity, but from then on it was channelled towards spreading the Gospel.

Paul was very religious. His training under Gamaliel was the finest available. His intentions and efforts were sincere. He would have been regarded as a good Pharisee who knew the Old Testament and sincerely believed that this Christian movement was dangerous to Judaism. He obtained permission to travel to Damascus to capture Christians and bring them back to Jerusalem but God stopped him on the Damascus road.

Until Paul’s conversion little had been done about carrying the Gospel to non-Jews. It was Paul who preached for Christ throughout the Roman Empire on three missionary journeys. He wrote numerous letters to various churches which have formed much of the theology on which our faith is founded. He was sensitive to God’s leading and, despite his strong personality, he always did as God directed.

The lessons we can draw from Paul’s life are many. He teaches us that the Good News is that forgiveness and eternal life are a gift of God’s grace received through faith in Christ and available to all. Paul teaches us that God does not waste our time – He will use our past and present so that we may serve Him with our future.

Nor did God waste any part of Paul – his background, his training, his citizenship, his mind, or even his weaknesses. Are we willing to let God do the same for us? We will never know all He can do with us until we allow Him to have all that we are!

Saints Peter and Paul, pray for the one, true, holy, Catholic and apostolic church, and for us.