SS Peter and Paul 2016
"I have kept the faith," wrote St Paul. At Caesarea Philippi, Jesus asked his disciples, "But who do you say that I am?" Peter replied on behalf of the Twelve, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." On the road to Damascus, Saul asked, "Who are you, Lord?" It was the Christ, the Son of the living God, who replied, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting." Both Peter and Paul came to believe, not through human inspiration but divine revelation, that Jesus of Nazareth was indeed the Messiah, the Christ, the Son of the living God. That discovery of faith brought with it the realization that they had also been chosen and called by him to be his apostles, and this in spite of their human weaknesses, idiosyncrasies and sinfulness. "My grace is enough for you." Through grace and the gift of the Holy Spirit, Peter and Paul became passionate lovers of Jesus Christ and lived their lives for him alone. "It is not I who live, but Christ who lives in me."
Beside the Sea of Galilee, Jesus asked Peter three times, "Do you love me?" "Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you." That affirming of love, which cannot be separated from his earlier declaration of belief, led Peter to over thirty years of fruitful ministry, above all in the Jewish community. Paul, whose mission of over thirty years was to the Gentiles, wrote to the Corinthians, "If I have prophetic powers, and understand all the mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things."
Love separated from faith can become a dangerous emotion, while faith separated from love can become sterile and sectarian. Faith has to be lived in love, while love can only be truly experienced in a life of faith and service. We live in difficult times to be men and women of faith. The forces of evil, often camouflaged as good, are ranged on every side against us, but persecution strengthens the Church.
The example and teaching of Peter and Paul encourage us not to give in but to persevere, and to do so with joy and confidence. Always remember Peter's miraculous escape from prison: he thought he was seeing a vision. "Now I know it is all true. The Lord really did send his angel and has freed me." There can be no faith without love, nor faith without martyrdom or love without suffering. Paul wrote to Timothy, "The Lord stood by me and gave me power. The Lord will rescue me from evil and bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom."
This then is what it means to keep the faith: to live a life firmly rooted in Christ and grounded in his love, so that everything we believe, do and say, are one and the same. We become the person God created us to be. At the last supper, Jesus said to his disciples, "Whoever has seen me has seen the Father." Just as in Jesus we see the Father and come to know him, so in Peter and Paul we see Jesus, the Christ, the Son of the living God.
Today we pray that we may come to see and know Jesus in ourselves and in one another. Only then we will be able to say with Peter and Paul, "I have fought the good fight to the end; I have run the race to the finish; I have kept the faith; all there is to come now is the crown of righteousness." I have kept the faith.