Liturgical Colour : Red
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today the Church celebrates the occasion of the Solemnity of St. Peter and St. Paul, two of the great Apostles of the Lord, courageous and most faithful servant of God, who have dedicated their whole lives to the glory of God, fulfilling the calling and mission which the Lord had entrusted to both of them, as most important pillar, support and foundation of the whole Church in this world. St. Peter and St. Paul are honoured together as the Apostles of Rome, the heart and centre of all Christendom, the seat of the Pope as the Vicar of Christ and successor of St. Peter as the leader of the entire Universal Church and all the faithful.
St. Peter was the leader of all the Apostles as the Prince of the Apostles; and leader over all the faithful, appointed by God Himself to be the Rock and foundation of the Church and as His Vicar on earth. In that capacity, St. Peter is the one representing the one true Head of the Church, the Chief Shepherd of all, none other than Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, our Lord and Saviour. St. Peter became the Vicar of Christ, the one entrusted with the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, and with the leadership over all the whole entire Universal Church. He has been entrusted with the leadership and maintenance of the Church, and his role as Vicar is truly a very important one.
Through him and his leadership, and by the succession of all those who was chosen to be his successor, St. Peter became the visible symbol of unity and the one upon whom all the faithful throughout Christendom orientate themselves towards, in following his examples and that of his successors, that through them they may come towards God and find their way towards Him through the Church. As the first Pope and Bishop of Rome, St. Peter in his many other works and capacities helped to maintain the unity of the Church and to resolve the issues arising among the faithful communities at that time, as shown in his leadership during the First Council of Jerusalem as listed in the Acts of the Apostles, resolving with the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the other Apostles, the matter of whether the Gentiles ought to be bound by the Jewish laws and customs or not.
Meanwhile, St. Paul the Apostle was the great evangeliser and labourer of faith, known as the Apostle to the Gentiles, establishing the roots and the foundation of the Church in numerous places throughout the known world at that time, in conjunction with the efforts of many other Apostles and disciples of the Lord, working together with many missionaries and people of God, in courageously proclaiming His truth and love to the whole world, letting everyone know of the salvation in Jesus Christ and all that had been revealed through His Church and His Apostles. He travelled on many missionary journeys to various parts of the Mediterranean world with various companions, intent on bringing God closer to the people who had not yet known Him.
St. Paul also wrote extensively in many Epistles or letters to the various congregations and communities of the faithful, many of which were included in the New Testament as part of the Sacred Scriptures, in which the Apostle inspired many of the faithful and exhorted them to avoid the path of sin, entrusting themselves to God and to turn towards God with faith. He helped to resolve issues and divisions among the faithful communities, and endured many trials and challenges in the midst of his efforts, some of which we can read in the Acts of the Apostles.
As we can see from the great many list of things that these two Apostles had done, we certainly must have thought that these two men were extraordinary people that were truly special and mighty, unlike that of us. But this is where we cannot be more wrong, brothers and sisters in Christ. The two Apostles, like many other Apostles, saints and other great and holy men and women of God, all of them were just like us, they were ordinary people and sinners, just like us. They were no more special and worthy before God just like us all. However, they all entrusted themselves to the Lord and allowed Him to guide them and help them to walk down the path of grace.
St. Peter was a mere poor and illiterate fisherman of the lake of Galilee, who was uneducated, brash and can be violent at times. He did not have the eloquence, skill or intelligence to become the so-called ideal leader of all the faithful. He gave in to the temptation of Satan and tried to persuade the Lord to stay away from His mission only for the Lord to rebuke him and Satan who was misleading him then. He denied knowing the Lord publicly not just once but three times, just not long after proclaiming that he would give his own life in exchange for the Lord, and he fled in shame and wept bitterly for that weakness.
Meanwhile, St. Paul was once known as Saul, a young and overzealous Pharisee born in Tarsus, who became a very ardent and violent opponent of the Lord and His followers from early on, as he embarked on a campaign of extermination of Christians and all those who profess faith in Jesus Christ, or believing in His teachings or propagating them, as a great enemy of all the faithful. This was a person who was although intelligent and capable, but in his actions and identity was the most unlikely person to be chosen as one of the followers of Christ, less still to become one of the Apostles and considered as one of the Lord’s greatest champions.
All these showed us today that God did not choose the perfect to be His disciples or to do His will. We are all flawed after all, sinners and unworthy of God’s great goodness and perfection. Yet, God called and empowered those whom He had called and chosen to be His followers and disciples. He gave them Wisdom, guidance and strength, through the Holy Spirit Whom He had bestowed upon them. He led them down the path that He has pointed out to them, and provided them help and assistance along the way. In that way, St. Peter and St. Paul had did many wonderful deeds for the greater glory of God, in caring for the needs of the flock, in their establishment of a stable and growing, vibrant Church which they patiently guided and nurtured.
And they followed the Lord faithfully and wholeheartedly, devoting their time and effort to serve the Lord and His people, and even having to endure many persecutions and trials, for the sake of doing their best to bring God’s salvation to more and more people around the world. Through their perseverance and efforts, God’s words and truth are brought to the knowledge and attention of many people, and many more souls have been brought from the precipice of destruction into salvation in God and eternal life. All of that were thanks to the efforts of the Apostles like St. Peter and St. Paul, who gave their all to the Lord, even their lives.
St. Peter was persecuted and was eventually martyred during the great Roman persecution, in which Christians especially all around Rome were persecuted for their faith, beginning with the persecution by the Emperor Nero. St. Peter was crucified, and while he was to be crucified, as the sign of his great humility, he asked not to be crucified in the same way as his Lord and Saviour. St. Peter asked to be crucified upside-down and it was in that way that he glorified God by his martyrdom in faith. St. Paul was also persecuted in similar persecution, and according to tradition, he was martyred by beheading during the height of the Neronian persecution.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, having heard of the great examples and faith of these two great Apostles, the Patron Saint of Rome and the whole Universal Church, let us then ask ourselves, have we responded to God’s call and commit ourselves to the missions which He has entrusted to each and every one of us? Or are we still ignorant and reluctant to follow the Lord or to entrust ourselves to Him? The choice is ours, brothers and sisters in Christ, and unless we commit ourselves more fully to the Lord, then we are not yet doing what we should as Christians in our daily living. What are we then going to do about that?
Let us all hence seek the Lord with renewed faith and commit ourselves in the spirit of St. Peter and St. Paul, inspired by the examples and the lives that they had led. May God be with us always and empower us all to follow in the footsteps of the faithful Apostles, at all times and in all opportunities we have in life. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.