Solemnity of Peter and Paul – Cycle B
Happy New Year!
All over the world today the Church is celebrating the closing of the Holy Year of St. Paul, a year in which we celebrate the 2000th anniversary of the birth of the Apostle to the Gentiles. In that sense, let me be the first to wish you a happy new year!
Today all over the Church we are celebrating the martyrdom of both St. Peter and St. Paul. Saint Peter was crucified this day in Rome, hanging on a cross upside down, at the same time, the emperor Nero had St. Paul beheaded on the Appian Way.
The Church is celebrating
A good friend of mine, Deacon Hugo is assisting in the mass to close out this Holy year in Damascus – the place where St. Paul was baptized. Another friend of mine, Deacon Phil is closing out the Holy Year in Rome, at the place of the martyrdom of both St’s Peter and Paul. In a certain sense we too can live vicariously through them, as they are members of our Church, the Church of Denver, which is celebrating with the universal Church these two great saints.
The word martyr is a greek word, meaning to witness. In the readings for today we see how James and John were martyred, and we hear from St. Paul as he prepares to offer the final witness of his life, that he pours out his life-blood to point to Jesus Christ, the Way, the Truth and the Life.
Why did they both choose martyrdom?
It is natural for us to reflect on this radical willingness to point to Christ. What was it that caused Peter and Paul to be martyred? Both passed up earlier opportunities in their lives. Why did they both choose martyrdom today?
St Peter explains
It is in the Gospel that St. Peter gives us the answer – his profession of faith – “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God!” It is their absolute trust in God. Both St. Peter and St. Paul had learned through the course of their lives to rely on the absolute providence of God.
Faith is knowing that you are living in God’s will
It was the knowledge that they were doing the exact thing that God had laid out for them. They knew by faith that they were doing His will. They knew that by their actions of witness they were keeping the faith, they were remaining true to Christ who saves them. This is why St. Paul says in his letter to Timothy, “He will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom”.
When we are called to witness to the love of Christ today – will he hold fast to the faith as Peter and Paul did?