29th / 30th June 2019

posted 1 Jul 2019, 03:30 by Parish Office

Homily for the Solemnity of Sts Peter and Paul, 29 & 30/6/19


“But you...who do you say I am?”


In some ways, Our Lord is a bit like Marmite – once you get to know Him, either you love Him or you hate Him.  There can be no middle ground.  Many of the people loved Him, many of the scribes and Pharisees hated Him, and the eleven faithful disciples definitely loved Him.  But we are weak, and if we are to imitate St Peter and St Paul’s love for Christ, we need more than just vague conviction.


St Peter was something of an enthusiastic and impetuous man.  It was easy for him to say to Our Lord at the Last Supper, “Though all lose faith in you, I will never lose faith. … Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you” (Matthew 26:33. 35).  It says also that “all the disciples said the same”.  Unlike us, who live by faith, they had seen the Lord in the flesh, they had seen all the miracles He had done, heard His great preaching in detail – we just get a summary of it all in the Gospels.  How could they not have been filled with conviction and thought that they would never abandon the Lord?  But we know what happened next.  They did exactly that.  Love and conviction were not enough.  But when their time came, then they gave supreme witness to Christ by shedding their blood.


What about Saul?  He too, was a man of love and conviction for the Lord.  That’s why he wanted to get rid of all the followers of Christ.  As far as he was concerned, they followed a distorted version of the Jewish faith, and if they weren’t going to back down and renounce Christ, then punishment and worse awaited them.  At the martyrdom of St Stephen, it says that Saul entirely approved of the killing.  He thought it was the right thing to do.  And Christ had predicted exactly that.  John 16:2-3:  “They will expel you from the synagogues, and indeed the hour is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is doing a holy duty for God.  They will do these things because they have never known either the Father or myself.”  That was the mindset of Saul.  Can you imagine what a totally, crushing, humiliating defeat it must have been for him when he discovered on the road to Damascus that he was wrong?  Then he had to go and study the Scriptures all over again and work out where he had gone wrong.  But once he had done that, he was then able to take on the Jews with full intellectual vigour, showing from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ.  And so, whilst some converted, others hated him, as they had done with St Stephen.


Like St Peter, St Paul was passionate in his love for Christ, and went to extremes to make him known.  In 2 Corinthians we read (11:24-28):


“Five times I had the thirty-nine lashes from the Jews; three times I have been beaten with sticks; once I was stoned; three times I have been shipwrecked and once adrift in the open sea for a night and a day.  Constantly travelling, I have been in danger from rivers and in danger from brigands, in danger from my own people and in danger from pagans; in danger in the towns, in danger in the open country, danger at sea and danger from so-called brothers.  I have worked and laboured, often without sleep; I have been hungry and thirsty and often starving; I have been in the cold without clothes.  And, to leave out much more, there is my daily preoccupation:  my anxiety for all the churches.”


Truly St Paul knew what it meant to give until it hurts, and then to give even more.  But in all this, he realised that it was the grace of Christ that was the motive force of what he did.  In fact, like St Peter at the time of the arrest and trial of Christ, St Paul also struggled with human weakness.  Romans chapter 7  (vs. 19. 22-23a. 24-25a):


“instead of doing the good things I want to do, I carry out the sinful things I do not want.  …

In my inmost self I dearly love God’s Law, but I can see that my body follows a different law that battles against the law which my reason dictates. …

What a wretched man I am!  Who will rescue me from this body doomed to death?  Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”


It’s reassuring to know that we aren’t the only ones who struggle in the fight against sin.  We can’t expect to achieve holiness and virtue just by trying harder – we need the grace of God.  In their earlier years, St Peter and St Paul made the mistake of putting their trust in themselves, in their own abilities.  It was once they learnt to distrust themselves and put their hope in Christ, that then they could truly succeed.


“But you...who do you say I am?”  Lord, you are the Way, the Truth and the Life.  Sts Peter and Paul, pray for us.