Saints Peter and Paul, Apostles
Acts 12:1-11 + 2 Tim 4:6-8,17-18 + Mt 16:13-19
June 29, 2017
“‘I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of heaven.’”
Peter, whom Jesus in today’s Gospel passage entrusts with the care of His Church, was very different than Paul. Peter’s personality was rough and impatient. He was poor and uneducated. Now if Jesus had thought as worldly people do, he never would have chosen Peter as the first pope. Instead, he would have chosen someone like Paul: refined and educated.
Regardless of their differences, these two men came to the same end: martyrdom for the Holy Name of Jesus. In the year 67, Saint Peter was crucified upside-down in the circus of Nero, and buried nearby in an out-of-the-way cemetery on a hill called the Vatican. Saint Paul, after being held a prisoner in Rome for many years, was beheaded just outside the walls of the city.
As with their Lord, these two men came to what seemed to be shameful deaths. Unfortunately, unlike their Lord, there was no report of Peter or Paul rising from the dead. They were simply failures. That’s surely how they were sized up by many around them, both in the Roman Empire and perhaps even among some members of the Church. What kind of foundation had they laid for the Church?
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was the Roman Church, the church that spread from that city throughout the world. Twenty centuries later, the Church certainly is universal, with more than one billion members across the globe. But are we really any holier than those first members of the Church? Are we willing to put our lives or even our names on the line for Christ?
Our spiritual lives are never a “done deal.” They are always under construction. The Mass we share in is a continual source of strength for us, as each week we struggle to be faithful disciples of Jesus. Each day is a building block of faith, in which, by our daily sacrifices, we build up others as well as our own spiritual lives.