Homily for the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul, Apostles, Year A 2014

Homily for the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul, Apostles, Year A  2014

The Feast today of Saints Peter and Paul takes precedence over the Sunday Ordinary Time, but only falls on a Sunday ever so often. In some countries this is a holy day of obligation, but certainly in its celebration the Church is honoring the two people that had most to do wight he spread of early Christianity. It is also true that they may have butted heads many times, so it is interesting that we celebrate them together.

The main differences in the two men seem to involve the people to whom they felt sent.  Peter was the apostle to the Jews and Paul was the apostle to the Gentiles. Historians and scholars tend to agree that Peter had more authority than the rest of the Apostles, though James seems to be the actual leader of the Church in Jerusalem. The Acts of the Apostles shows Peter in his leadership position, preaching and deciding to elect an apostle to replace Judas. About half way through the Acts, however, the author, Luke, follows the exploits of Paul, and we don’t hear anything of the later life of Peter.

The Acts today begins with the death of James, one of the original Apostles, being put to death by King Herod, the grandson of the Herod from the Gospels. Because he got positive feedback from killing James, he had Peter arrested, but did not want to do anything with him yet due to the holy Passover season. So, he had Peter imprisoned and guarded. The very simple line: “…the Church prayed fervently for him” really indicates the approach to prayer that the early church took. We might be able to apply it to our prayer life today as well. First of all, we must pray fervently or intensely. The verb “prayed” in Greek is a tense that implies continual praying – so we must pray constantly. We must pray to God, that is develop a personal relationship with God. Prayer should also be as specific as possible. They prayed “for him”.  We do this in our prayers for the sick at the Prayer for the Faithful. We are as specific as possible. Lastly, we should not forget the communal aspect of prayer – the Church prayer for Peter. They believed that all united in prayer would be more efficacious. If we pray this way, we are praying in the same manner as the early church, and as we see, God listened to the prayer and helped Peter miraculously escape. The Psalm reflects this answer to the Church’s prayer with he words: The Lord set me free, the Lord set me free from all my fears”.

Continuing with an emphasis on Peter, the Gospel reading today from Matthew, portrays Peter as one of the first to public acknowledge that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God.  He is praised by Jesus for this because Jesus indicates that there is nothing earthly that would bring Peter to this conclusion, but sees it as a revelation from God to Father to Peter.  The oft-quoted lines: “You are Peter and upon this rock I will build my church” have been debated for years. The play on the word rock might come across a little better if we were to say “You are Rocky and upon this rock I will build my Church.” It is word play on the solidity of Peter’s belief, and how the Church will be built on the foundation like rock that Peter represents. The Church will be built on the belief and faith of people like Peter. But Peter is more singled out when Jesus says that he will give Peter the keys of the kingdom of heaven. We have seen that the “kingdom of God” is something that Jesus has been preaching about his whole public life, and it is a metaphor of the type of world that Jesus preached about – a world of justice, peace, humility, healing, restoration and redemption. Peter, and some would say all the apostles,  is being given administration over the kingdom that Jesus has instituted after he is gone from them. Central to the kingdom is love of God and neighbor.

Do we really understand that the kingdom of heaven exists now, not completely in its fullness, but is here right now. How do we spread the kingdom? Do we continue to restore all things to God, do we continue to forgive others, do we try to heal, to preach the good news that Jesus preached? All valid questions coming from Jesus’ intimate moment with Peter.

St. Paul, as we know, was the Apostle to the Gentiles.  Because of his vision of Jesus and mandate from Jesus, Paul was totally focused on bringing the Good news to the world. And if you follow his travels, they were quite amazing for that time in history. Our reading today is taken from the end of life when he is reflecting on what he has accomplished in the earthly kingdom and he oohs forward to being with Jesus in the kingdom after death. His greatest accomplishment – from his words – is “I have kept the faith”, and that he has “fully proclaimed” the Good News. This is indeed similar to Jesus’ praising of Peter for his “faith” and belief in him. Like Peter, Paul has been helped, rescued and redeemed by Jesus, and his words: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” will I hope be echoed on the death beds of each of us here. What more wonderful thing could we hope for. 

So let us use Peter and Paul today as inspirations for our own lives, men who had weaknesses, who fell from grace many times, but picked themselves up and carried on with that vision of a beautiful world, truly a kingdom of God, to guide them, and the inspiration of Jesus to know what to aim for. All saints are role models for us – I think that is the purpose of canonization – but some truly human persons who have failings and still achieve sainthood can be the best role models for us as we struggle to create God’s kingdom now and forever.

And this is the Good News that Jesus preached, the Paul preached, that Peter preached and that I preach today!

Bishop Ron Stephens 

Pastor of St. Andrew’s Parish in Warrenton, VA

The Catholic Apostolic Church in North America (CACINA)

[You can purchase a complete Cycle A of Bishop Ron’s homilies, 75 of them, from amazon.com for $9.99 – “Teaching the Church Year”]

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One Response to “Homily for the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul, Apostles, Year A 2014”

  1. Joe Says:

    Dear Rev Thanks for your simple words of the great men of our faith. Wish you the best. I would like more of your sharing .mjkizito@gmail.com.
    God bless
    Rev Joe

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