Different styles, same goal

Al Cariño
Sts Peter and Paul
Reproduced with Permission

It is ironic that while other saints have their own individual feast days, Sts. Peter and Paul - the two greatest apostles of the Church - have theirs on the same day. However, as we get to know the different backgrounds and personalities of these two men, we will realize that celebrating their feasts together makes sense.

Who are these two great men of the Church?

Paul was a highly educated man. He was raised as a Pharisee and thus well schooled in Scriptures. Very likely, he came from a wealthy family.

"I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith. From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me, which the Lord, the just judge, will award to me on that day"

As a person, Paul was sure of himself. He also pursued his beliefs to the end, even to the point of fanaticism. For example, before his conversion, he believed that Christianity, if allowed to prosper, could mean the death of Judaism. Thus after getting the approval of the religious leaders of the Jews, he persecuted the early Christians. It was he who presided in the stoning to death of Stephen in Jerusalem - Christianity's first martyr.

The turning point in Paul's life came while he was on his way to Damascus to persecute the Christians there. After he was thrown off his horse, he heard a voice asking, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?" When he asked who He was, the reply came, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting." Then he heard the voice tell him, "Now get up and go into the city and you will be told what you must do." Some time thereafter Paul began to preach in Jesus' name with unparalleled intensity and zeal, first to the Jews and later to the Gentiles.

To the end, he remained sure of himself but this time as Christ's apostle, saying, "I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith. From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me, which the Lord, the just judge, will award to me on that day" (2 Tim. 4:7-8). Suffering much in the name of Jesus, he was eventually martyred in Rome.

Peter, on the other hand, was a simple, uneducated fishermen. He was poor and down to earth. Though quick tempered, he was also quick to admit his mistakes.

Moreover, Peter often opened his mouth before he had thought things through. For example, after Jesus told His disciples that He must suffer, be killed and rise again after three days, Peter immediately remonstrated with Him. He just could not see why the Son of God would suffer and die. Jesus had to rebuke him as He did Satan at the start of His ministry, saying, "Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do." (Mt. 16: 23)

Finally, Peter felt and loved deeply. After the miracle of a huge fish catch in daytime, Peter threw himself at the feet of Jesus saying, "Depart from me for I am a sinner." When at the Last Supper Jesus said that they would all be scattered upon seeing Him betrayed and arrested, Peter, because of His great love for Jesus, immediately declared that he would never betray Him (Mk. 14:29). Jesus must have just smiled at seeing Peter weep when the cock crowed three times!

"You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do."

But it was to Peter that Jesus said, "You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" (Mt. 16:18-19). With these words, Jesus did not only make Peter the head of the Church but He also entrusted to him the teaching authority of the Church. Peter was eventually martyred in Rome.

Simple and spontaneous enthusiastic Peter, so very human! Perhaps, it was because of his humanity that Jesus decided to name him as the shepherd of the infant Church.

Peter and Paul. The two greatest apostles of the Church. Though two completely different personalities, both found their joy in proclaiming Jesus as Savior - Peter to the Jesus, Paul to the Gentiles.

With what have seen about the two apostles above, we can now see why the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul is celebrated on the same day. For though they are two different kinds of disciples, together, more than individually, they portray the exacting demands and opportunities of discipleship on those who work in the Lord's vineyard. Their lives tell us that for the continuation of Jesus' work and that of His Church, no one kind of personality is preferred. It does not matter if we think, feel and act differently as long as we share in the same goal.

As God did to Peter and Paul in their time, He now asks us to make our unique contribution in the proclamation of the Gospel through the use of our respective talents and abilities. Are we willing to meet the challenges and opportunities of discipleship here and now?