29 June 2016
Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul
There’s something strange about the Church. On the one hand, we recognize the primacy of Saint Peter. He’s the one to whom Jesus gave “the keys of the Kingdom of heaven.” He’s the one upon whom Jesus said he would “build my Church.” But, on the other hand, it’s usually Saint Paul’s words and teachings that we’re familiar with.
Paul said: “The time of my departure is at hand. I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith.” We hear that at funerals all the time. He also said: “Faith, hope and love remain; these three. But the greatest of these is love.” We hear that at weddings all the time. And at every Mass we hear Paul’s words of greeting: “May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”
Peter’s words, on the other hand, don’t spring to mind as readily. And so, there’s something strange about the Church. Saint Peter is the “rock” foundation of the Church; and yet it more often seems like Saint Paul really is. But, perhaps, this is how God planned it.
After all, God works through the community of the faithful. Authority doesn’t rest with a single person; even God, who’s the ultimate authority, isn’t a single person—God is a Trinity. And so, with this Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, we celebrate the way God reveals his mind and his mercy; it’s the way of companionship.
When Peter was locked up in prison, it was “the Church”—it was the faithful who were of one mind and heart—who called to God for help. The Church is a community of companions, bound together by the Holy Spirit. And so, we celebrate the Church, not for its own sake, but because it’s the primary way God reveals himself to the world.
To be real companions in faith is to be the living presence of God in the world. And that’s what Saints Peter and Paul were; they were companions in faith. And that’s what we are (or should be): Companions in faith. And in that, everybody has a role to play. Peter and Paul had theirs: Peter was the rock; Paul was the Apostle to the Gentiles.
The question, though, is: What’s our role in the Church? It’s to be a companion; but to whom and in what way? How can we share the gospel through the gift of companionship?