Peter and Paul, Apostles | National Catholic Journalist

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“I have finished the race: I have kept the faith” (2 Tm 4, 7).

Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, Apostles

Acts 12:1-11; 2 Tim 4:6-8, 17-18; Mat 16:13-19

Jesus is the mystery who embodied the presence of God in the world. Peter and Paul were responsible for faithfully transmitting this mystery to the world. Jesus is the Christ, the Anointed of God, while Peter and Paul preached the mystery and founded the movement that became the Church, which institutionalized the Gospel in history.

In the whirlwind of activity that surrounded their lives, Peter and Paul may never have thought of themselves as founders, but they were surely aware that what they said and did would have a real impact on what was to come. They were the first-time church, and their example served as a tradition that future generations would revere and emulate.

Each of these apostles was faithful in his own way. Peter was part of the mother church in Jerusalem and he was an important figure for Jewish Christians. Paul was the missionary to the Gentiles. The Acts of the Apostles say they opposed in the earliest and most crucial decision made by the church – whether Gentile converts should become Jews in order to be full Christians.

The First Council of Jerusalem resolved the conflict by affirming that faith in the saving power of Jesus was the only requirement for joining the church.

Peter and Paul underwent profound conversions. Under pressure, Peter denied even knowing Jesus at the time of the crucifixion. Paul persecuted the young church before meeting the resurrected Jesus on the road to Damascus.

Eventually, these two great apostles fulfilled their missions and, according to tradition, were martyred by the Romans when Nero was emperor. Their faith was tested and their testimonies were so powerful that they became leading role models for the early church.

Part of their example for us is that God can use weak people, even failures, to demonstrate the power of grace. Two unlikely men, a proud fisherman and a brilliant tentmaker, became the founders of the church.

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