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SS Peter and Paul

The apostles come in many shapes and sizes. There was ‘Doubting Thomas’ and James and John, the so-called ‘Sons of Thunder’ and the other early followers of the Lord. Their number included, let us not forget, many women: such as Mary, the Mother of God, who was never far away from her Son, and St Mary Magdalen, who was the first to see the Risen Christ and for this reason was recently called by the pope ‘Apostle to the Apostles’.

Today we celebrate the two great apostolic pillars: St Peter, the leader of the Twelve, the ‘rock’ on whom the Catholic Church was built, and St Paul, who did so much to bring the Faith to the rest of the known world and whose writings were so influential and continue to be so.

Peter and Paul came from very different backgrounds, they had very different temperaments and gifts, at times they strongly disagreed with each other. But they worked together for the same goal - to bring people to Christ. And they had much in common - both followed Christ after personally encountering Him. Both tirelessly preached the Gospel and led the first Christian communities. Both died a martyr’s death in Rome. And both changed their name as a mark of their new identity as Christians. Saul became Paul,. Simon became Peter. Both also were very human. Peter often putting his foot in it, wavering in his Faith, even denying his Master three times. Paul starting off as a great sinner, a persecutor of Christians, and throughout his life he suffered from some mysterious affliction, a thorn in his side, which has been variously interpreted as a physical affliction, mental illness or some great temptation.

This Feast reminds us of the mystery of God’s choice. Why does God call a certain person to undertake a particular mission? Surely, we might think, that, instead of bumbling St Peter, Our Lord should have chosen James and John for their energy; or John, because he was loved the best; or even Judas, for his financial ability! Surely there would have been better candidates than St Paul, the persecutor of Christians? They were chosen all the same, ordinary men with an extra-ordinary mission. Indeed, to be followers of Christ, to be modern apostles we don’t have to be top of the class or superhuman. This is something that we can see in the institutional Church, made up as it is of broken, fragile human beings. But these broken, fragile humans all have a part to play in the building of God’s Kingdom. Our strength is our weakness, thanks to the grace of Almighty God.

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