Today we celebrate the feasts of Saints Peter and Paul – St. Peter, the apostle to the Jews, and St. Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles. I think these two saints are some of the greatest examples of what God can do through the most unlikely of instruments – people like you and me.
Saint Peter was a fisherman – a simple man living a simple life. Jesus captivated Peter with his preaching, and when Jesus invited Peter to follow him, Peter followed. We know so much of the story, and are especially aware of Peter’s denial of Jesus after Jesus’ arrest.
How much of Peter is in us? We’re right there cheering Jesus when things are great, but when things are tough, our self-preservation instincts kick in and we muffle our cheers and raise our doubts.
Yet Peter’s experience of repentance, the resurrection, and Pentecost transformed him – as it should for us – into someone who went to his death with his unwillingness to abandon Jesus again. In around the year 64, the Romans crucified St. Peter upside down because Peter felt unworthy to die in the same manner as Jesus.
Saint Paul was a tentmaker and a pharisee – a simple man living a simple life, but unlike Peter, a man formally educated in the Jewish faith. Jesus’ followers captivated Paul, but in a negative way. We first see Paul as Saul, persecutor of the Jews, in fact a witness to the death of the first martyr, St. Stephen. The Christians feared Paul as he staunchly defended his faith.
But God had a different plan. On the way to Damascus, Paul’s life changed forever when he was blinded by Jesus and subsequently cured, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” (Acts 9:4) Paul’s direct encounter with Jesus altered the course of his life. A miraculous, divine intervention turned that same zeal of Paul’s Jewish faith into a new-found zeal for the Christian faith leading to the Romans beheading him in the year 65.
And so it is with us. We must allow repentance, the resurrection, the grace of the Holy Spirit, and our encounters with Jesus to transform us into powerful witnesses who impact the world. It may be only a small circle of influence, but God needs each and every one of us to bring his love into the world, even if it’s only one soul at a time.
Saints Peter and Paul, pray for us! Anne