SS PETER AND PAUL, APP. (Solemnity) Red
First Reading: Acts 12:1-11; Psalm: 34. R. v. 5b; Second Reading: 2Tim 4:6-8. 17-18; Gospel: Mt 16:13-19
THE FATHERS OF THE FAITH
BY FR VALENTINE NNAMDI EGBUONU, MSP
Today the Church celebrates the solemnity of two great apostles SS Peter and Paul. These two apostles are regarded as the pillars of the Church (Gal 2:9). While Peter evangelised the circumcised (Jews), Paul evangelised the uncircumcised – the Gentiles (Gal 2:7). St Paul recounted in Galatians 2:8 that “He who empowered Peter’s apostolate to the circumcised also empowered mine to the Gentiles.” So these two great apostles were the missionaries that bridged the gap between the Jews and the Gentiles. This is the reason why they are celebrated together. About these two St Augustine said: “Both apostles share the same feast day, for these two were one, even though they suffered on different days. Peter went first and Paul followed. And so we celebrate this day made holy for us by the apostles’ blood.” (Sermon 295).
In the gospel, Jesus conferred upon Peter the keys of the kingdom after he revealed him as ‘The Christ of God.’ The Church regards this as a foundational text for the ordained priesthood and of the governance of the Church. Carrying on this responsibility, Peter was imprisoned for fearlessly proclaiming the gospel as reported in the first reading but God miraculously saved him through his angels. Paul was a persecutor of Christians whom God called and made an apostle. Thereafter, with so much strength and ardour he preached and defended the faith which he persecuted. And having worked so hard, he anticipates his crown of righteousness which the Lord will bestow on him on the Day of Judgment (2Tim 4:8).
Both Peter and Paul were martyred in Rome under the Emperor Nero in 64 and 67 AD respectively because of their fearless proclamation of the gospel. Peter was crucified upside down while Paul was beheaded. The lives of these two apostles should be an inspiration to us to be committed and dedicated in witnessing to the gospel by word and example. In the words of St Augustine, “Let us embrace what they believed, their life, their labours, their sufferings, their preaching, and their confession of faith” (St Augustine: Sermon 295).
PRAYER FOR THE DAY
Lord Jesus, make us ardent defenders of the faith. Amen.