During his historical life, people knew Jesus and thought about him in many different ways. We are shocked to discover that some people called him Beelzebul, the prince of demons (Mt10:25). Jesus, aware of the diversity of opinions about him, asked his disciples, “But who do you say that I am?’ Peter responded, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus said to him that he is blessed because his heavenly Father has revealed this to him. Thereupon, Jesus declared that upon Peter (Rock) he will build his church, and bestow upon him the power of his own authority.
Our celebration of the Eucharist on the feast of Saint peter and Saint Paul is an expression of gratitude for the gift of Catholic faith and a prayer for a deepening of that faith. With Peter we are able to say to Jesus present among us, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus in reply says to each of us by name, as he said to Peter, “Blessed are you…For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.”
Just as people had many widely differing opinions about the identity of jesus during his brief historical life, so now many people have widely differing opinions about the identity of the church. If today we honor Saint Peter for his confession of Jesus as Messiah and Son of the living God during his historical life, we honor Saint Paul for his confession of Jesus as Risen Lord present among us in his church. Flesh and blood did not reveal to Paul (Saul) that Jesus is now sacramentally present in history as the Catholic Church. On his way to Damascus to arrest disciples of Jesus, Paul experienced the remarkable gift of the same faith in the identity of the church that we share: “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” He said, “Who are you, sir?” The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting” (Acts 9: 4-5). This incarnational identification of Jesus with his disciples is why Saint Paul could call the church the Body of Christ.
One of the most comforting aspects of Catholic faith is that through the church we are not only in living communion with Jesus, the Risen Lord, but with all the saints who are in communion with him. In our Eucharistic prayer, united in the Liturgy of Heaven, we sing in communion with them: Holy, Holy, Holy.
The saints continue to speak to us in their own words. Saint Peter says to us today, “Although you have not seen him [Jesus] you love him; even though you do not see him now yet believe in him, you rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, as you attain the goal of [your] faith, the salvation of your souls” (I Peter 1:8-9). Saint Paul reminds us that our Eucharistic communion with the Risen Lord in the church is the precious truth of Catholic faith: “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because the loaf of bread is one, we, though many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf” (I Cor 10:16-17). Saint Peter and Saint Paul, apostles and martyrs of faith, pray for us. Amen.
Fr. Campion P. Gavaler, O.S.B.