Sts Peter and Paul, Year A, 29.06.2018
(Fr. Stephen Yim)
Acts 12:1-11/ 2 Timothy 4:6-8, 17-18/ Matthew 16:13-19
Today the Church celebrates the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, the two great pillars of the Church.
We may think that these two saints are like two peas in a pod, and if we were to give names to a pair of twin boys, the obvious choice would be to name them Peter and Paul.
Peter and Paul may seem to give us an impression of unity, but in fact, they were more of an incompatibility.
They were more like oil and water, and their differences go deeper than that of liquid viscosity.
That fact is that initially, they would have wished the other to be dead, and they won’t even bother about attending the other’s funeral!
St. Paul, when he was Saul, was part of the mob that stoned Stephen, the first martyr, to death.
And following that, king Herod started persecuting certain members of the Church, as we heard in the 1st reading.
He beheaded James, the brother of John, and when he saw that this pleased the crowds, he targeted Peter and had him put into prison.
The Church then prayed fervently for Peter, and he was miraculously rescued from the prison by an angel.
By then Paul had become the No. 1 enemy of the Church as he relentlessly persecuted Christians and he even went as far as Damascus to capture Christians.
But it was there on that road to Damascus that something striking happened to him and then things changed drastically.
So initially, Paul was the hunter and Peter was the hunted; Paul was the persecutor and Peter the persecuted.
They were on opposite and opposing sides. Paul had the political power to carry out his persecution, but Peter had the spiritual appointment for his protection.
But even after Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus, he and Peter did not immediately become friends, and they also did not see eye to eye on Church matters.
They were as different as oil and water and they even had their differences recorded in the Acts of the Apostles. And in Galatians 2:11-14, Paul even called Peter a hypocrite in his dealings with the Gentiles.
It was rather strange that Jesus would choose these two men who were far from perfect or even suitable to be the two pillars of His Church.
Yet, that also showed that the Church is both divine and human – that there is a spiritual force guiding and working through her human instruments.
Although in life, St. Peter and St. Paul had their differences and shortcomings, it was in death that they were united in a common goal and mission.
Both died in Rome as martyrs (Peter was crucified upside down and Paul was beheaded) and that showed that their lives were not for their own glory but for the glory of God.
This feast of Sts. Peter and Paul teaches us that despite the differences and failings of personalities and characters, the Church can still be united in a common goal and mission.
Even now in the Church, there are some who are conservatives and some who are liberals; some are traditional and some want to be modern; some want discipline and others want freedom.
Yes, the Church is like a mixture of oil and water, and yet we, like St. Peter and St. Paul, are called to rise above our differences just like oil floats above the water, and be united in a common goal and mission.
As we heard in the gospel, Jesus promised that the gates of the underworld can never hold out against the Church.
Yet, we also must be reminded that our differences must not give the opportunity to the underworld to tear us apart from within.
Rather, like St. Peter and St. Paul, let us be united in love for Jesus and for one another.
St. Peter and St. Paul showed that in their lives they loved Jesus and hence in love they also accepted the other even if they did not agree totally with the other.
Hence as they were united in life, so were they united in death, and now they are united in glory.
Likewise, let us be united in love, so that whether in life or in death, the gates of the underworld will never tear us apart.
There is an epidemic going on and it’s capturing the headlines and resulting in lack of sleep and heavy eye-bags.
Of course, I am not talking about a serious disease. I am talking about the World Cup fever. It all started in Russia with all its thrills and spills.
And already some of the big boys of the game had been sent packing home.
And some jokes had been made about that. For example, what is the difference between a tea-bag and the England team? Answer: the tea-bag stays longer in the cup! : )
And of course there are some less scorching jokes like this one:
A man takes his seat at the World Cup Final. He looks to his left and notices that there is an empty seat between him and the next guy.
The man asks: Who would ever miss the World Cup Final? The other guy replied: That’s my wife’s seat. We have been to the last five World Cup Finals together, but sadly she passed away.
The man said: Oh I am so sorry to hear that. But couldn’t you get another member of the family, a friend or someone else to come with you?
The guy replied: No … they are all at the funeral! : 0h!