Monday, June 29, 2020

Peter and Paul: Pillars of Christ's Church

Happy Feast of Saints Peter and Paul!

These are the two great apostles, martyrs, and patron saints of the Church of Rome. The bishops of Rome through the ages and even to the present day have received from Saint Peter the special authority and ministry entrusted to him by Jesus (see Matthew 16:13-19).

Today it is particularly important to pray for Pope Francis (indeed, Pope Francis constantly reminds us of his need for our prayers, always asking us to remember him and ask God to sustain him). We need to pray for him, the successor of Saint Peter in our time, that he might have strength to fulfill and persevere in his office as "the servant of the servants of God."

Jesus said to Peter, "'Simon, son of John, do you love me?' He said to him, 'Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.' He said to him, 'Tend my sheep'" (John 21:16).

Let us adhere to the Lord with trust, no matter what, as did Peter when he said, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Christ, the Son of God" (John 6:68-69).

We also honor especially, and aspire to imitate, the great faith of these two men who endured many trials and finally shed their blood as witnesses of Christ. The great Pope (and Saint) John Paul II helps us to appreciate this in all its radical depth: "If the witness of faith and the arduous struggle which the Apostles Peter and Paul had to undertake for the cause of the Gospel are considered in merely human terms, they ended in defeat. In this too they faithfully followed Christ’s example. Indeed, humanly speaking the mission of Christ, who was condemned to death and crucified, ended in defeat. However, both the Apostles, with their gaze fixed on the Paschal Mystery, did not doubt that precisely what to the eyes of the world seemed a defeat, was in fact the beginning of the fulfillment of God’s plan. It was the victory over the forces of evil won first by Christ and then by his disciples through faith" (from his homily on June 29, 1997).

Here too we have the testimonies of Peter and Paul themselves. Peter encourages believers: "Beloved, rejoice in the measure that you share Christ’s sufferings. When his glory is revealed, you will rejoice exultantly. Happy are you when you are insulted for the sake of Christ, for then God’s Spirit in its glory has come to rest on you" (1 Peter 4:13-14). And Paul expresses this in a very personal way to Timothy: "I am already being poured out like a libation, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith. From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me, which the Lord, the just judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me, but to all who have longed for his appearance" (2 Timothy 4:6-8).

This is a day of joy and hope for us, for Jesus remains among us through the essential service of the successors of Saint Peter, who hold “the keys to the kingdom of heaven,” and the apostolic heritage of Saint Paul, who opened the riches of the Gospel to the “Gentiles,” the peoples of all the earth and all of history.