SS Peter and Paul 2017


In 67 AD Saints Peter and Paul were martyred in Rome. Peter was crucified upside down and Paul beheaded, a privilege reserved to Roman citizens condemned to death. This year marks the 1950th anniversary of the martyrdom of the two saints on whose faith was founded the Church of Rome.

Both Peter and Paul were called by Jesus to follow him as disciples and to proclaim the Gospel as apostles. Jesus calls us today just as he called them. He calls us for our own salvation, but also to the mission of saving others. Caesarea Philippi was the turning point in the ministry of Jesus and in the lives of the disciples. It was there that Jesus asked the Twelve to stand up and be counted, to set themselves apart from the crowd. "But you," he asked, "who do you say that I am?" It was Simon Peter who spoke up in our name, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God," to which Jesus replied, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. It was not flesh and blood that revealed this to you but my Father in heaven. So now I say to you, you are Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church."

Peter proclaims his faith in Jesus, a faith that is gift and revelation, not opinion or intuition. In return Jesus proclaims his faith in Peter, a faith such as only God can have in a human being. In recognising Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the living God, Peter acknowledges that he can no longer believe without sharing his faith, that faith without mission is no faith at all. Faith can never be secret or private. Rather, it shows us the path we should take, the way we should live, what we should say and what we should do. Faith alone makes us the salt of the earth and the light of the world. That is why Jesus says to Peter, "On this rock I will build my Church."

Writing to Timothy, Paul leaves us in no doubt as to the source of his mission. "The Lord stood by me and gave me power, so that through me the whole message might be proclaimed for all the pagans to hear." The Lord stood by me. A vocation such as Paul's is a gift made to those who search for truth with a sincere heart. We can only respond to God's call and fulfil it, if we allow the Lord to stand by us. Paul also wrote, "I have fought the good fight to the end. I have run the race to the finish. I have kept the faith." Perseverance and obedience go hand in hand, they cannot be separated. Living the Christian life, doing God's will, listening to his voice, cannot be a sporadic thing, dependent on whim, mood or fashion. God's call to a missionary faith lived in love and service demands our all, a total commitment, nothing less than martyrdom in life and in death.

Pope Francis tells us that Saints Peter and Paul, "proclaimed and witnessed to the Gospel among the people, and with their martyrdom, they sealed their mission of faith and charity." May the good Lord in his mercy allow each one of us to do the same today, for he has blessed us all with the precious gift of a missionary faith. To him alone be praise and glory in his Saints and in his Church now and for ever. Amen.