BY: Fr. Munachi Ezeogu

Like every other institution which finds time to celebrate her founding fathers and pillars, today, the Church as an institution celebrates her own pillars upon which the Church was built. Saints Peter and Paul are regarded as the two pillars of the Church because of the great roles they played in the establishment of the Church of Rome which is today, the headquarters of the Catholic Church. Today’s celebration has a tripartite intention. The first intention is to remember and honour them for the great roles they played in the Church, especially in honour of their martyrdom. The second intention is to learn from their examples and the third intention is to ask for their saintly intercession. Though distinct in character and role, the Church celebrates these two Saints together to depict the unity that should exist between Christians irrespective of their differences.

In the Gospel reading (Mt. 16:13-19), we see Peter’s confession of faith. Inspired by God, Peter confessed Jesus to be the Messiah, the Son of the Living God and in return Jesus made three declarations about him. First, Jesus declared Peter the Rock upon which He will build the Church. Secondly, Jesus declared that the kingdom of darkness can never overpower this Church built upon Peter. Thirdly, Jesus declared him the custodian of the keys of the kingdom of heaven which signifies the power to bind and loose as well as to rule and govern the Church. These declarations made Peter the Prince of the Apostles and the Leader of the Church. In the second reading (2 Tim. 4:6, 17-18) St. Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles expresses the satisfaction with which he carried out his primary task of evangelizing the Gentiles and his expectation of a heavenly reward. While Peter governed the Church, Paul taught the Church and for these roles which were crowned with martyrdom, we remember and honour them today.

There are several lessons we can learn from the lives and examples of these two great saints. God’s grace can transform our weak nature. Peter and Paul were weak in themselves, Peter denied Christ while Paul persecuted Christ. But they cooperated with the grace of God to become great. Weak as we are, we can still become great in the sight of God by cooperating with His Grace. No matter what we may have done in the past, if we sincerely follow Christ, we will obtain forgiveness and salvation. To follow Christ, we have to abandon our evil ways and begin to do good. We can also learn to contribute our quota for the overall good of the Church. Peter was a conservative leader and Paul a charismatic preacher. Though led by the same Spirit, they were different in temperament and personality but united in faith and purpose. We can learn to go beyond our differences to build a stronger and more united Church. In the Church, there should be a reconciliation and balance of opposites for the good of the Church. None should claim to be superior or more important than the other. Nobody should be looked down upon because God could do marvellous things with those we despise.

As apostles to the modern world, we have to request for their intercession to help us be successful as they were. In the first reading (Acts 12:1-11), Peter was miraculously released because of the fervent prayers of the Church. Today, we can also be miraculously assisted in our mission of witnessing to the Gospel through their fervent intercessions. This should encourage us to remain resolute even in the face of danger because the Saints are always interceding for us. God listens to their prayers and He does not abandon His own. If God doesn’t save us from danger like He saved Peter in the first reading, then like St. Paul in the second reading, the crown of unfading glory awaits us after the race. As Christians, our goal should be to receive this crown of unfading glory on the last day. Therefore, as we celebrate these two great saints, do not lose hope because what they are, we can become by God’s grace if we persevere in faith as they did. May Saints Peter and Paul pray for us!

God loves you.

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