Everywhere you go in Rome, when you find Saint Peter or Paul, you always find the other guy hanging around. In front of Saint Peter’s on the Vatican – there was Paul, in the basilica of Saint Paul outside the walls, well, there was Peter. And in the EUR the main church there is named after them both. And now today we celebrate these two very different people on the same day.
As Christians we need to see this odd couple as more than a liturgical curiosity. I believe that celebrating these two saints on the same day is a challenge to live a multidimensional faith.
Saints Peter and Paul came at Christianity with such different visions, but somehow they, and the Church, lived in peace. We should do the same. All of us are called to be like Peter. All of us are called to be like Paul. None of us can be fully Christian without having some of the tension that they felt with each other in our souls. It is that tension that keeps us growing in our faith. So here’s a little checklist based on what the tradition tells us. Are you like Peter, who:
· Was a bit impulsive, even fearless and was the first to speak up when it came to Jesus
· Sinned, but was able to forgive himself, and was sincere in asking forgiveness
· Liked staying in one place, caring for the people around him
· Followed the rules, and didn’t look for change, but embraced it when it was the right thing to do.
Or are you like Paul, who:
· Loved to think about Jesus in long and convoluted thoughts – just ask any lector!
· Struggled with the ongoing frailty of the human person, and with temptations
· Was the great one for reaching out to the whole world for Jesus
· Did not always feel bound by the rules or traditions, but could be a bit stogy and a creature of his time too.
In these few examples, do you feel the tension between the two? What may feel that to embrace both of these examples means being inconsistent. Actually it has more to do with living a mature Christian life. So if we haven’t done something impulsive for Jesus lately, the feast of Saint Peter is our reminder to get out there and be a fool for Christ. Seriously.
If we have been turning a blind eye to our own weaknesses, if we haven’t been serious about the struggle to be a true and faithful disciple of the Lord in all things, then the feast of Saint Paul comes knocking on our door today, reminding us that all Christians face challenges head on. Honestly.
So welcome to the feast of contradictions, spend time with these two flawed individuals who together give us a pretty good idea of how to follow Christ and to love the world as he still does.
–Glenn Byer has been making music for the Mass for 40 years, and has been writing about and offering courses and workshops on liturgy for more than 30 years. He holds a Master’s in liturgy from the University of Notre Dame, and a doctorate in liturgy from the Pontifical Institute for Liturgy at the Atheneaum of Sant’Anselmo in Rome. Glenn has written numerous books, some of which include 26 Ordinary Ways to Live the Liturgy, Unlocking the Feasts and Seasons of the Liturgical Year and Living the Liturgy of the Word.