June 29 is the Solemnity of St. Peter and St. Paul. It ranks as a special feast because both are considered pillars of the Church. St. Peter was chosen by Jesus as an Apostle and as head of the Church, the first pope. St. Paul was a Pharisee who was called sometime after that first Pentecost by Our Lord to be an Apostle as well. His work was largely in preaching to those who were not Jewish. Thus he is called the Apostle of the Gentiles. Quite a number of the New Testament Epistles were written by him under the inspiration of God, while two Epistles were written by St. Peter.
Their holiness consisted of their commitment to doing what God asked of each of them. That is what holiness is; simply doing God's will whatever it might be for us. It does not mean a perfectly sinless life. St. Peter, you recall, tried to dissuade Jesus from his purpose of going up to Jerusalem to suffer for us. Our Lord reacted by calling him a "satan" which means and adversary. He also had a temper; he cut off the ear of the high priest's servant in the Garden of Olives. We all know about his triple denial of even knowing Jesus. Nevertheless, Our Savior, knowing his weakness, called him to be his Vicar on earth—to be the Pope.
St. Paul had his issues too. He was opposed to the new sect of Jews who followed Christ. A persecutor of Christians, he gave approval to the stoning to death of the first Christian martyr, St. Stephen. Our Lord had to knock him off his horse and confront him with his wickedness. He acquiesced and eventually joined the Apostles. He endured many hardships and sufferings during his three missionary journeys and arrests. Eventually he suffered martyrdom in Rome in 67 A. D. because of his loyalty to Christ. St. Peter also underwent martyrdom in the same city three years earlier.
We honor these two great martyrs today. We pray for the Church especially today, that all open their hearts and minds to her mission. Let us pray for ourselves too, and we keep on trying each day to do what God asks of us.
On Friday we will celebrate and thank God for our beautiful nation. We recognize the sacrifices and efforts that America's founding fathers and most Americans have made to give us this great land. We know that our U.S.A. is far from perfect and ideal. Yet, we are loyal citizens, ever using our privilege to vote and working to correct the wrong and to foster the good.
It is interesting to note that St. Peter lived under a government that was Godless and largely unjust. Yet, read the Divinely inspired words that he wrote:
"For the sake of the Lord, accept the authority of every social institution: the emperor, as the supreme authority, and the governors as commissioned by him to punish criminals and praise good citizenship. God wants you to be good citizens..." (1 Peter 2:13-15).
Have a safe and happy 4th of July!