Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, apostles
Acts 12:1-11; II Timothy 4:6-8.17-18; Matthew 16:13-19)
Saints Peter and Paul testify to the inclusiveness of the Church. Peter was a fisherman from Galilee, well within the territory of Israel. Paul, a member of the Jewish diaspora, hailed from Tarsus in Asia Minor. Peter worked as a fisherman before he encountered the Lord. Paul, a scholar, served as a Jewish inquisitor when Jesus abruptly called him. Although both had missions to non-Jews, Peter, it seems, worked primarily among his own people while Paul preached far and wide to Greek-speakers. Their lives converged for at least a third time in Rome where they were martyred.
More importantly than dying during the same wave of persecution, they both preached Jesus Christ. In today’s gospel, Peter identifies Jesus as “’the Christ, the Son of the living God.’” Paul will give full meaning to those words when he writes of reconciliation through Christ, the Son. As the Pauline letter to the Ephesians states, humans are reconciled not only to God but to one another through Christ.
Today we honor Peter and Paul together as patrons of the whole Church. More than any other saint, the two represent the Church’s apostolicity and universality. They left the security of their homes and indeed their homelands to tell others about God’s work in Jesus. They reached the symbolic crossroad of the earth in Rome where they testified with their blood to God’s love for all in Jesus.