Homily- Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul: Fr. Michael Udoekpo
Reading: (Vigil) Acts 3:1-10; Ps 19:1-5; Gal 1:11-20; John 21:15-19 (Day) Acts 12:1-11 Ps 34:2-9; 2 Tim 4:6-8,17-18 and Matt 16:13-19.
Living the Examples of Saints Peter and Paul Today
Today we celebrates the life and steadfastness of Saints Peter and Paul, two great giants and pillars of the Church. Peter was from Bethsaida, a town in Galilee on the shores of the Sea of Tiberias. Originally, he was a fisherman. He met Christ through his brother Andrew. He abandoned his net and followed Christ. He had his own ups and down as the Vicar of Christ. Quite outspoken. had his own crisis of faith. Denied Christ several times during the Passion Week. Regained his faith, pastoral and leadership roles in the church, and eventually died as a martyr for the same faith in Rome, under the persecution of Nero, about 64 AD. Peter was buried where the Vatican is located today.Paul on the other hand was from Tarsus known as Saul, prior to his conversion. Originally, he was an attorney and persecutor of Christians and their values. He was chosen to form part of the college of Apostles by Christ himself after his miraculous conversion on his way to Damascus. He preached faith, endurance, repentance, perseverance, unity and the good news of Christ to the Gentiles and pagans of all nations.
Peter and Paul’s exemplary-apostolic lives are narrated extensively in the pages of the Scripture, especially in the readings we had at both Masses; the vigil and at this Mass of the Day. Both men suffered persecution and trials. Peter was bound in prison by Herod in the first reading, Acts of the Apostle. But through the prayer of the Church he was miraculously freed from prison and fears by the angel of the Lord. Peter himself acknowledged this and said, ‘now I know for certain that the Lord sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod’ (Acts 12:1-11).Like Peter, Paul in all his missionary preaching and pastoral travels witnessed all kinds of persecutions. He was beaten, rejected, ship wrecked and imprisoned. But he knew that the crown of righteousness awaits those who persevere to the end.
Today, while exhorting, Timothy, Saint Paul is indirectly addressing us in our various situations: Paul says:“I Paul, am already being poured out like 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… the Lord stood by me and gave me strength, so that through me the proclamation might be completed and all Gentiles might hear. And I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil…” (2 Tim 4:6-8, 17-18).
Perseverance, endurance, sacrifices are demanded of Christians in their faith preaching, witnessing and ministries. We have seen this not only in Paul, but in Peter as well. Recall, what Peter went through during the trial of Jesus. He was afraid. He went through fear and trials of confusion. He denied Christ. But the same Peter in John 21 would come back with courage to say, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you” (John 21:15-19). Peter is ask to feed Christ sheep, the Church. The same Peter, in spite of weaknesses and trials is able to recognized Christ in Matthew’s Gospel (Matt 16:13-19) as “the Son of the Living God.” Because of his endurance, and perseverance Peter is made the Rock the foundation of the Church and the custodians of the keys of the kingdom of heavens. He has the power to bind and to loosen. So also his successors – the Roman Pontiff to whom members of the Church through their bishops and priests collaborate with.We live today in different times with challenges than Peter and Paul. We may be faced with different forms of challenges by different “Herods” and “Neros.”: For example secularism, disagreements, rifts, divisions, terrorism, wars, a diminished sense of the sacred, extreme entertainment atmosphere of materialism with a huge gap between the poor and the rich. There are also pluralism of religion and political/economic ideologies hostile to Christian faith. In this age under these circumstance, each of us, priests and non-ministerial priests, young and old, students and workers, parents and children are invited to imitate Saints Peter and Paul as ministers of the gospel and values of Christ to our neighbors and friends of all cultures and nations. Values of love, values of hope, values of faith, values of forgiveness, values of endurance, values of bearing the weight of our crosses, values of oneness, values of universalism, values of charity and peace, values of authentic leadership, courage and gratitude.