The Solemnity of Saints Peter & Paul

Today we are celebrating yet another high feast of our faith. Usually these kinds of days are celebrating a mystery of the Lord, a key event in Jesus’ life which reveals to us something about the Lord our God. This day, the day we celebrate St. Peter and St. Paul would seem to be quite different. For one, this doesn’t seem like a key event in Jesus’ life, it might not look like it reveals something about God, and you might think that the martyrdom of St. Peter and St. Paul isn’t quite like a great mystery like Jesus’ Ascension into Heaven.

But, this feast is here, and is celebrated so highly because it does reveal something, and it is a key event in Jesus’ life. It is a key event in Jesus’ life because the Church is the body of Christ, we are the body of Christ and the martyrdom of St. Peter and St. Paul marks an important step in the history of that body. As those two great Apostles gave their life in witness to Jesus Christ, the Church entered a new era, an era that we are now living in, where the mysteries of Christ and of the Church are not longer discovered and revealed, but rediscovered, developed, made clearer, and handed down to us so that we might hand them down to our children.

The martyrdom of St. Peter and St. Paul also revealed something about the nature of the Church, or rather, how the Holy Spirit works through the Church. Because as St. Peter and St. Paul were martyred, as their blood flowed, as the crowds cheered their demise, as they lay humiliated, broken and poor, the Church was triumphant. Just as the Romans thought their victory was accomplished, it was the Church, the body of Christ, that secured the victory, because the Church was far from vanquished, but instead thrived. In St. Peter’s place stood Linus, then when they killed him, up stood Cletus, then when they killed him, up stood Clement, then Evaristus, then Alexander, then Sixtus, then Telesphorus, then Hyginus, then Pius, and on and on until Francis.

This feast day shows us that just when the world seems triumphant, just when the Church seems finally defeated, a new era of the Spirit emerges. So when things seem hopeless, or when chaos seems to reign, when we’re fed up, and struggling to see a way forward, pay attention, because it is the Lord our God who is about to claim victory. And He will claim that victory in our hearts, and through us in the world, if we allow ourselves to take His call seriously.

Reflection from Fr. James Barber