Homily for the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, Apostles

What made St. Peter stand out from the other disciples was his divinely inspired awareness of the identity of Jesus as Messiah. It was because of this unique insight that Jesus gave Peter a unique role among His followers. He was to be the “rock” on which Jesus would build His Church. It was a very significant role for Jesus to give to any of His disciples. St. Peter’s position was further marked by Jesus giving to him “the keys to the Kingdom of heaven.” The image of the keys implied authority; the nature of that authority was expressed by Jesus in terms of binding and loosening. St. Peter received the task of authoritatively interpreting the teaching of Jesus for other members of the Church. Yet, this same Peter would try to deflect Jesus from taking the way of the Cross, and when Jesus did take that way, St. Peter would deny Him. Jesus gave a significant role to someone who remained very flawed. 

Scripture associates teaching with St. Peter and preaching with St. Paul. St. Paul was the great preacher of the Gospel to the pagans throughout the Roman Empire. He preached it for the last time further west, in the city of Rome, where, like St. Peter, he was martyred for his faith in Christ. In a very moving text, probably written from prison in Rome, St. Paul wrote: “I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith.” The image of the competition and the race suggests that “keeping the faith” was a struggle for St. Paul; it did not come easy for him, just as keeping the faith did not come easy for St. Peter. 

Keeping the faith does not always come easy to any of us. St. Paul’s words show that he was very aware that keeping the faith was not due primarily to his efforts; it was the LORD who enabled him to keep the faith. He said, “The LORD stood by me and gave me strength.” It is the LORD who strengthens and empowers all of us to keep the faith; His faithfulness to us enables us to be faithful to Him; His faithful love encourages us to keep returning to Him, even after failure. The faithful witness of Saints Peter and Paul speak to us ultimately of the LORD’S faithfulness to us all.+

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