The Holy Apostles Peter and Paul
As we approach the end of the Apostles’ Fast and the feast of Saints Peter and Paul on Monday it might be good for us to reflect on these two great apostles. They have really only a few things in common. Both of them were Jews and, of course, both of them were followers of Jesus Christ and called to be apostles of Christ.
The list of things that they do not have in common is much longer if less significant. Paul was a rabbi and had trained with one of the most important rabbis of his day. He was, in other words, a scholar and a very important man. Peter, on the other hand, was a fisherman when Christ called him. Peter was with Christ from the beginning of his public ministry while Paul was not. In fact, it is likely that this was seen as a strike against Paul by some early Christians who claimed that he was not a “real” apostle. He even refers to himself as one "untimely born". He was certainly conscious that unlike Peter and the other apostles he had not been with Christ. The truth is that not only had he not been with Christ during His earthly ministry, as the other apostles had, but Paul had actually been a persecutor of the early church before his conversion. He arrested and imprisoned Christians and was present at the martyrdom of the first martyr, Stephen the Deacon.
Despite all of their not insignificant differences, however, one of the things that unite Peter and Paul and that is remarkable given the fact that they are considered the chief Apostles is just how flawed they both were. If there is a tendency in the church, at times, to lionize or make superhuman heroes out of the Saints, the Scriptures do no such thing with Peter and Paul. In the Gospels Peter is presented not so much as courageous as rather too quick to speak and act, in other words, foolhardy. Who can forget his threefold denial of Christ after he swore he would die with Him? And Paul, as we have already noted, before he was the great apostle was Saul the persecutor of the church, a fact that he for one never, ever forgot.
It is quite telling that Christ chose these two men to be the chief apostles and that we commemorate them together on the same day. What Christ himself told St. Paul applies to both Paul and Peter and it applies to us as well: "My grace is sufficient for you; my strength is made perfect in weakness." Saints Peter and Paul, the chief apostles, despite their weaknesses – or perhaps because of them – became the vessels of the grace of the Holy Spirit to the world, proclaiming as Lord a Messiah crucified in weakness but raised in power. And we who are members of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church must, likewise, come to Christ in our weakness, shunning the modern cult of self-improvement and self-empowerment, believing that precisely in our weakness the power of God will rest upon us. It has always only been thus with the holy ones of God.
With love in Christ, Fr John