Today the Church celebrates the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul. The mere fact that this solemnity over-rides the usual Sunday celebration tells us much of the significance of these two saints.
In Rome, it is a particularly favored day in the liturgical year recognizing that the Church was built upon the faith of Peter: “Lord, you are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” (Matthew 16:16) Similarly, though the primacy goes to Peter, the Church recognizing the great teacher, Paul along with his great faith and perseverance: “I have fought the good fight; I have run the race to the finish; I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:7)
While today remembers the entire life and ministry of St. Peter and Paul, it also gives thanks for their final ‘confession,’ that of laying down their life, pouring out their blood, as the greatest witness of their faith that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the Savior of the world. The Church is built upon the blood of the martyrs, and every such ‘confession of faith.’ That faith of St. Paul is captured in these words: “I know the one whom I have trusted and I am certain that he, the just judge, has power to keep safe what he has entrusted to me until that Day.” (2 Timothy 1:12)
We have only to read the Gospels, Acts of Apostles and Paul’s Epistles to recall the many hardships each of these saints endured as they faithfully followed Christ. We have only to study the history of the Church and the teaching of Jesus to be reminded that carrying the cross is a part of every true Christian’s life.
From my first visit to Rome back in 1986, I learned how moving it is to visit the places where these saints walked, taught, were imprisoned, martyred and are buried. Standing and praying in these hallowed places increases one’s desire to know Christ as they knew Him in order to love and serve Christ with the same singleness of purpose. That is the beauty of the life Christ calls each of us to discover. How inspiring it is to pray and celebrate Mass where these saints are buried, giving thanks for their friendship with Christ in the hope that we too will here Christ say to us: “I call you friends”. (John 15:15)
I believe the Church today is experiencing a ‘New Springtime.’ With such hope comes the conviction that God is raising up holy men and women for our time for the renewal of the Church, just as in His Providence, He had men such as Peter and Paul to establish His Church. Let each of us today be renewed in our confidence in God’s love as revealed in Christ. Let us be renewed in the faith celebrated today in Saints Peter and Paul as we profess with St. Peter:
“Lord to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life; and we believe and we are convinced that you are the Christ, the Son of God.” (John 6:68)