St. Peter and St. Paul: Great examples for us!

07-05-2020From Fr. John's DeskFr. John Barbella

I wrote these words this past Monday-which was the Feast of St. Peter and St. Paul. As I wrote I could not help thinking of how these two great apostles are great examples for you and me. Although they lived long ago both St. Peter and St. Paul have a lot to teach us about following Jesus today.

Jesus gave both St. Peter and St. Paul a great mission in this world. As Catholics we believe that St. Peter was the first pope. Although Peter would not have used that term, the fact that Jesus made him the leader of the Church on earth is obvious from even a casual reading of the New Testament.

Peter is mentioned 191 times in the Bible-more than three times as much as any other apostle. After Jesus ascended to Heaven, Peter took the lead in many different ways. He proposed and led the process of picking a new apostle to replace Judas Iscariot, he preached the homily after the Holy Spirit came on Pentecost explaining why the crowd heard all of the apostles in their own languages. In the first disputes that arose in the early Church, Peter took the lead gathering the others, leading the discussion, and speaking for the Church once a decision was made.

That Peter was less than perfect at times is no secret. We all know that he denied Jesus three times on Holy Thursday night. Many also know that St. Paul had to encourage Peter to speak more forcefully on at least one occasion. Indeed, St. Paul knew how important it was for the leader of the Church to boldly proclaim the message.

St. Paul is an interesting apostle for a number of reasons. He was not one of the original Twelve, and at first opposed and tried to stop Christianity from spreading. He was even involved in the killing of St. Stephen, one of the Church’s first deacons.

Paul’s conversion happened when Jesus spoke to him from a blinding light one day. After a brief conversation with our Lord, Paul obeyed Jesus’ words and was baptized. After making a retreat and meeting with Peter, he began preaching the Gospel in so many places it is hard to count them all. Indeed, Paul would be the greatest missionary in Church history.

If you know the Bible, you know that, like St. Peter-St. Paul was far from perfect. He was not always the easiest person for other disciples to work with. We know that on a couple of occasions, other disciples found him so difficult that they simply left him and went home!

I suspect Paul was unintentionally difficult, but possessed a level of zeal that most people do not. I started this column by saying that I believe these two great apostles have a lot to teach us about being Christian in today’s world. Here are three reasons why.

The first reason is precisely because they are so imperfect. Jesus knew better than anyone that neither St. Peter nor St. Paul were perfect people. He was well aware of their shortcomings. But He still called them to be apostles and gave them a great mission in this world.

In the same way, Jesus knows we are far from perfect. But He still calls us to be His disciples and gives us the mission of living a holy life in this world. Rather than get discouraged by the fact that we don’t always do this perfectly, we should look to the example of St. Peter and St. Paul and remember that we are in good company. Just as Jesus forgave those great apostles and helped them to persevere in spite of their shortcomings, so He will forgive us whenever we repent of our sins and give us the grace we need to keep trying to be the best Catholics possible.

The next reason is that St. Peter and St. Paul both followed Jesus under difficult circumstances. The world in which they lived did not make it easy to spread the Word. There was no print media, let alone electronic or social media, to help preach the Gospel. Add to that the fact that they were so opposed in their work that both of them died as martyrs; killed for their faith in Jesus.

Like them we face all kinds of difficulties in living and spreading our faith. While we have many forms of communication at our disposal, so do those who work to spread a different message. While we enjoy freedom of religion in our land, we are well aware that not everyone does. We also know that, even with the freedom we enjoy, we face many challenges in preaching the Good News and living our Faith each day. Like St. Peter and St. Paul, we cannot get easily discouraged.

Finally, St. Peter and St. Paul remind us that the Church is multidimensional. As the first pope, St. Peter reminds us that the Church is a structured and ordered community of Faith. St. Paul reminds us that the Church always has a missionary dimension. In this they teach us to respect and work to make the structured Church all she can be while simultaneously doing our best to further her missionary efforts around the world today.

I hope everyone had a great Independence Day. Those who missed them can find my reflections for Independence Day in last week’s bulletin column.

Please remember to pray a Hail Mary for me today and every day!

Have a great week!

Fr. John