Yesterday, I was talking to Fr. David about the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul. I mentioned, jokingly, that it seemed to me to be hard to write a homily on this feast day. Those I had read or heard had always been about just one of these saints, maybe with a slight mention to the other.
When you take a look at these two saints it is very easy understand why this happens. They are very, very different. They represent different aspects of our faith history. Peter was a poor fisherman, whose brother introduced him to Christ. Paul was from a Tarsus family, making him a Roman citizen, and was an educated Pharisee. Peter was impetuous in actions and hasty in thought. He could answer Christ, as in today’s Gospel, with God-inspired wisdom “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”; only to have Christ answer his next statement with: “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.” St. Paul was intelligent and intense in thought and action, he was zealous in his living the Jewish faith and fanatical in fulfilling his duties. St. Peter was to bumble at times in his leadership, where St. Paul was constant and in control. They had two different paths; St. Peter kept mostly to the Jews and St. Paul would interact and evangelize the Gentiles. Yes, when we look at these two foundational saints of our faith, they are two very different men. Indeed, Holy Mother Church, in her liturgy today highlights this. In the preface we hear:
‘For by your providence
the blessed Apostles Peter and Paul bring us joy;
Peter, foremost in confessing the faith,
Paul, its outstanding preacher,
Peter, who established the early Church from the remnant of Israel,
Paul, master and teacher of the Gentiles that you call,
and so, each in a different way> gathered together the one family of Christ
and revered together throughout the world,
they share one Martyr’s crown…’
Martyrdom, both in Rome, is one connection. But, for me, there is a more foundational connection. Both men in their own way met Christ. Both men had a relationship with Jesus. Both men fell in love with the God who came among them. They didn’t come together because they shared a philosophy; they loved the same best friend. And when they went into the world their whole method of evangelization was bringing their beloved brother and Lord to those they met. It is this simple; the nascent church grew because those who loved Jesus introduced Him to those who didn’t know Him.
Dr. Scott Hahn, in his new book Evangelizing Catholics writes: ‘…our task in the New Evangelization, first and foremost, is to proclaim a Person… Our task is proclaim Jesus. The man. His life. His words, even his manners and idiosyncrasies…That was goal of the first evangelization, and it needs to remain the goal of the New Evangelization.’
With Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular bearing a brutal assault by society in this country and around the world we need to be reintroduced with our mission, our reason for existing. Our reason is to proclaim our best, and most loved, friend; a person named Jesus – and to proclaim Him crucified, died and risen. Let’s remember that the early church was also under brutal assault by the societies they were part of and if this method worked for St. Peter, St. Paul and the whole of the early church, and results don’t lie, then we need to embrace it. Nuancing our faith when dealing with society is not what we should be doing – it has no traction. We shouldn’t waste much time in trying to justify our dogmas and structures with people who don’t know Jesus Christ. They need to know of Him so to grow in love for Him; then all the rest, with our help, will come to complete understanding.
To some this might seem very ‘evangelical-protestant-like’, and this would be wrong. This evangelizing method is what God intends all his followers to embrace because it is what He did for us. He came and introduced Himself to St. Peter and St. Paul and to anyone who would open their minds and hearts.
Brothers and sisters, as I speak we are on the cusp of a definitive moment in our lives – as individuals, as a church, and as a country. Tomorrow the Supreme Court will make known their decision on the HHS mandate case; I don’t think it is hyperbole to say that freedom of religion hangs in the balance as well as our other fundamental freedoms. The decision will be announced on the Feast of the First Roman Martyrs, ominous? Or is it inspiring, since St. Paul and St. Peter where in that group. And in spite of their martyrdom, Holy Mother Church continued to grow and bring Christ to people; and people to Christ. Let’s take their courage and their Gospel message of Jesus Christ and go out and reintroduce the world to our best friend and His Sacred Heart.