Saints Peter and Paul, Apostles
FEAST OF PETER AND PAUL
This weekend we celebrate the feast of two great masterpieces of God. Two men of the early church that let the Lord mold them from rough, stubborn and anything but Christian to masterpieces of Christianity. We make comparisons between God and man like: He is the potter, we are the clay. He is the poet, we are the pen. He is the artist, we are the brush. The difference between us and these instruments is that they are lifeless and we are humans with a free will. God can form me into a beautiful work of art, but only if I let him.
Let’s take a look at Peter and Paul, and see just who they were, and what God had to work with.
You notice that the vestments today are red. This is to signify that these two men were martyrs. The word means: WITNESS. They were witnesses to the Christian faith by giving of their lives. Paul was a good candidate for martyrdom to begin with, but not so Peter.
Peter: By nature he was not a courageous man. He watches out for Peter first. Remember, he denied Jesus three times and he really wasn’t being pushed all that much. He was not at Calvary with John and the women. Then he hid out in the upper room for about two months, in fear of the Jews. It isn’t until Pentecost that Peter got the courage to step out and be the leader of Christianity. Then he ends up in prison, just waiting to be executed. We heard in the first reading about his miraculous escape. He will then start a long journey through Palestine, to Greece, and finally to Rome. In all these places he encounters obstacles, sufferings, and difficulties; and all preparing him for the final act of martyrdom that will come in Rome.
Paul: Here is a man that was made for martyrdom. Just give him a cause, and he is ready,. To him, life is a challenge, a race, a prize to be worked for. He was born to be a martyr. He thrives on a challenge. Obstacles are something to be overcome. He does not back away from any challenge. Paul is outgoing and a natural public figure, where-as Peter would just as soon melt into the crowd. Paul is imbued with confidence, Peter can’t comprehend what the word means. Paul has a good education both in the religious schools of Jerusalem and in the private schools of Tarsus. He is bi-lingual and bi-cultural. He is a talented writer and speaker. Peter had no formal education, did not speak or understand Greek or Latin, and he had never traveled further than Galilee to Jerusalem.
Now it seems as though God had easier material to work with in Paul than in Peter. But I don’t think so. Remember, Paul was a died-in the wool Jew. He was absolutely convinced of the righteous of his cause and he was out to clean out these new followers of Jesus. If he had to die doing it, that was fine with him. For God to turn him around was going to take some doing – like knocking him off of his horse and blinding him. Even after all that, Paul spent three years out in the desert on retreat. Then he is a few years back in Tarsus making his tents. It is only after all this time that he has been able to assimilate and really take in all that Jesus was teaching that Paul is really ready to go on the road. Now he is on the path to being a real witness and finally a martyr for Christ.
I think we can look at these two men today and during our Mass and celebration, ask the Lord to work with us – however we are. That we might become good witnesses to our faith, not by our death but by the way we live and share our lives with one another.