A reminder that tomorrow is the Solemnity of Ss. Peter & Paul and a day of holy obligation for Catholics. There will be no morning mass at St. Anselm’s, as I will be away celebrating a Mass for St. Gregory’s school in Tunbridge Wells, but there is an evening Mass in church at 8pm. All are welcome.
SS Peter and Paul shepherded the church in its earliest days. They were radically different characters yet both were crucial. Peter for maintaining unity. Paul for ensuring growth. A healthy Church needs authority and wisdom. The authority of Peter- the wisdom of Paul.
Given their impressive status one might be forgiven for assuming each led a blameless life. Not so! Peter was impetuous and a slow learner who often dismayed Jesus; so much so he was scolded with the words, ‘Get thee behind me Satan’. Peter got things wrong repeatedly. He even promised to die with Jesus, only to give in to cowardice.
Paul was equally fallible. He had a fiery temper. In early life he persecuted Christians even rejoicing in the murder of Stephen. And after his conversion that temper remained. He upset churches. In Acts we read how when Paul returned to Tarsus, “the churches were left in peace”. That is pretty damning. Paul was a pain. He wasn’t popular. He fell out with people- most famously Barnabas and Peter himself!
So Peter and Paul were complex characters. Men of talent yet beset by weakness. So what made Peter great? What made Paul wonderful? It was not their human strengths and gifts, as we have seen, but rather that, despite being flawed, they submitted to God and were transformed by grace. They gave their lives for the sake of the kingdom and God used them in a wonderful way.
Paul, highly educated, had a burning intellect that enabled him to become the first serious theologian. Peter ever pastoral and strong, had the loving authority needed to guide the Church. Neither man was perfect- but both were made perfect by grace. Both lives, once given to God, reaped a harvest for the church.
Ss. Peter and Paul remind us that the church is not a club for the perfect but a hospital for sinners. God calls imperfect personalities to spread the Gospel. He works through frail humans, warts and all, if we would but submit to his will and not our own agendas. Human weakness is no barrier to living faith.