Solemnity of St Peter and St Paul
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Today we celebrate the solemnity of the ‘big guns’ of the catholic faith. Peter to whom Our Lord gave the keys of the kingdom of heaven and Paul who became the apostle to the Gentiles. The English word apostle is derived from the Greek ‘apostolos’, or ‘a person sent.’
To be sent indicates a mission of sorts; something is entrusted and results are obviously expected. Peter was entrusted, as an apostle, to tend to the Church, “whatever you bind will be considered bound and what evert you lose will be considered loosed.” This is was tremendous power in the hands of a man who also had deep flaws. Peter denied the Lord and wanted to deny the Lord of his plan for the salvation of the world by suggesting that he not embrace the cross. Peter was more often the ‘loose cannon’ who felt compelled to say something or the other, out of turn and out of place. In good jest, I have often referred to him as the patron of ‘spontaneous prayer.’
Paul was no different; having consented to the death of the proto martyr of the Church, St Stephen, he set out to Damascus to drag men, women and children to a kangaroo court in Jerusalem and all because they professed Christ as their saviour.
God did not choose perfect men or women. He chose people flawed as they were but encouraged them to achieve the best. He did not give them some small irrelevant tasks in his ministry as a testing to see if they were capable. He gave his ‘flawed’ disciples the biggest tasks in ministry; to be in charge of his Church and to be the apostle to the Gentiles. Did they fail, yes and perhaps several times but they were recognized as saints not because of who they were but because they entrusted their ‘flawed lives’ to the care of the one who is truly capable.
The solemnity of St Peter and Paul is a reminder to all of us that Christ has entrusted not just any task but his very Church, at his Ascension, to each of us; “go make disciples” he said. We too have received the mandate to go out, to be sent out, to be apostles. The Catholic Church cannot grow with an hour of worship on a Sunday at mass; an obligation fulfilled, a tick mark in our weekly scheduled. Each Sunday the priest, in the name of Christ dismisses us with the words, “ite missa est” which translates as ‘you are dismissed;’ dismissed to proclaim the Gospel and yet that dismissal is taken callously by most of the billion Catholics who profess the faith. I say this confidently because the results are there in the open.
The Solemnity of St Peter and Paul is also a reminder to us that God does not need perfect men and women. Often there are some who make the Church the whipping boy of their personal frustrations. They expect the clergy and religious to be ‘models’ of perfection that they themselves would not dare emulate. While the clergy and religious must be open to constructive criticism (which sadly is not the case always); the attitude of the laity cannot be shoot and scoot especially when they use social media to vent their frustrations.
The Church is perfect, for it is the mystical body of Our Lord; her members though, both clergy and laity do have flaws. But if Christ could reinstate Peter to “feeding his sheep” in spite of his triple denial in the hour he most wanted Peter to stand by him and if Christ could call a person who was a persecutor of his Church, then, who are we to deny or even more hinder the calling of Christ? The Church needs apostles, people to be sent out and that sending out is not limited to the ordained ministry.
On this Solemnity, let us pray for the Peters’ and Petras’, Pauls’ and Paulinas’ and that go out in his name, flawed as they may be but knowing they have been called and sent to walk in this great apostolic tradition of saints who proclaim.