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Peter and Paul

Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator

Today we celebrate one of the great feast days of the Church, the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul. Our Christian Scriptures give us a little biographical information as well as the content of their preaching, preaching that gave the Christian Church its great beginning in what we fondly call the Apostolic Era.

While these two men represent what is best about Christianity in many ways, today I would like to focus on how these two are like the rest of us. First of all, like us, they were both sinners. While this can be said of all the apostles and disciples of the Apostolic Era, Peter and Paul will always have the witness of the Scriptures to confirm the fact for us. Peter denied that he knew Jesus three times in one night, the night which began his Passion and Death. Paul persecuted Christians, hunting them down and dragging them off in chains before the Jewish authorities. He was complicit in the murder of Stephen, the first Christian martyr. While I am sure that they were guilty of other sins in their lifetimes, these two are documented and prove that they were sinners, just like you and me.

Peter was also rash and usually stuck his foot in his mouth when he spoke before he thought. I am not sure that this would qualify as a "disability," but it does demonstrate that he was not perfect. Paul, on the other hand, apparently suffered from some sort of disability which affected his eye sight. He was unable to see well enough to write. After a scribe (or secretary) would write his letters, Paul would sign them with a broad signature, big enough that he could see the letters. From his description, he may have had cataracts or macular degeneration.

The point of this essay is not that Peter and Paul were imperfect. They were, just like we are all imperfect. The point is that God still used them to accomplish great things, to build up the kingdom, to establish what would eventually become the Christian Church. At the end of their service, they both suffered a martyr's death. Peter was crucified, and Paul was beheaded. Both of them were martyred in the persecution of Nero. Scholars and historians place their deaths at around 76 A.D. Because they died in Roman, the Church of Rome honors both of these men. In Rome, June 29 is a civil holiday. At the Vatican today, the Holy Father will present the pallium, the symbol of office, to all those bishops who were appointed to sees that are called "metropolitan."

As we celebrate today, let us be mindful of how God is using us for the same purpose as God used these two great apostles.

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