Tuesday, June 29, 1999
First Reading: Acts 12: 1-11
Psalms: Psalm 34: 2-9
Second Reading: 2 Timothy 4: 5-8, 17-18
Gospel Reading: Matthew 16: 13-19
FEAST OF SAINT PETER AND SAINT PAUL, APOSTLES
Because of the significance of these two saints, we include it under feasts rather than saints. Known as "The Rock" of the Church, Saint Peter is indeed the one who Christ charged to head His Church as the first Pope after He ascended into Heaven. Christ's words in John 21: 15-19 indicate another way Jesus clearly intended Peter to be the first Vicar of Christ on earth when he said: "Feed My lambs...Feed My
sheep." The Good Shepherd was passing his staff on to Peter the new shepherd. To this day every bishop carries the shepherd's staff, called a crozier, shaped like the shepherd's crook and symbolic of the bishop's role in feeding Christ's sheep as well as the reason for the staff in the first place, to prod the sheep when they become lax or stray. Up until the eleventh century popes also carried the crozier but now carry the cross, indicated by the cross Pope John Paul II carries whenever on official appearance as the successor of Peter. Through the actions of this saint, we realize Peter was "everyman", an accomplished fisherman by trade who Jesus turned into a "Fisher of men." Peter was weak and afraid, evidence by his denial of Christ as Jesus foretold, but was strengthened on Pentecost to become brave and strong, the leader of the fledgling Church. Cowering in fear far from the Our Lord's Crucifixion at the time, he courageously went to his own crucifixion later in Rome as a martyr. Humbled by the previous experienced he expressed that he was not worthy to be crucified in the same manner as Our Lord, and thus was crucified upside down. From a pebble to a strong rock God transformed this great Apostle just as the Almighty can transform all of us if we are open to His Will.
Peter's counterpart, Saint Paul took a different route to sanctity. Starting out as Saul of Tarsus, the Pharisee who was a voracious persecutor of Christians, he was struck from his horse enroute to Damascus as God confronted him directly "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me?" To impress that this was truly the One, True God, He struck Saul blind, instructing this Jewish persecutor to go into the city of Damascus and wait. After three days God, through His angel, sent a Christian named Ananias to Paul who was still blind. Ananias had been assured by God that "this man is a chosen vessel to Me, to carry My Name among nations and kings and the children of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for My Name" (Acts 9: 15-16). Trusting in God, Ananias approached Saul saying, "Brother Saul, the Lord has sent me
- Jesus, Who appeared to thee on thy journey - that thou mayest recover thy sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit." As Acts 9: 17-19 relates, "there fell from his eyes something like scales and he recovered his sight, and arose and was baptized." It was then that Saul realized the folly of his ways and turned his fervor to persecute as Saul into a fire of evangelism as Paul in converting countless Jews and Gentiles to the One, True Faith. It was not an easy path for upon his conversion he did as the Lord instructed, first going to Arabia in
preparation for the mission God had for him. Paul underwent numerous hardships including shipwreck, rejection, imprisonment and internal bickering but, by trusting in Christ and the Holy Spirit, this fiery saint persevered writing and proclaiming the majority of the epistles of the New Testament. His journeys ultimately brought him to Rome where he received his crown of martyrdom by beheading in 67 AD, shortly after Peter was crucified by the Romans.