As for us brethren let us celebrate this great day * and cry out to these two Apostles * "Rejoice, Apostle Peter so closely linked with your Teacher Christ our God * Rejoice O most beloved Paul preacher of the faith and teacher to the universe * O you two holy ones because of your high position and rank * pray to Christ God that He may save our souls" (From the Vespers of the Feast)
My Dear friends,
Today, we face a multitude of problems as a society. With the invention of the internet the world has become a smaller place but the void of interpersonal relationships in our lives has become greater. We no longer look to people as “inspirational”. We have an empty spot in our soul that needs to be filled. We have this question gnawing at us as to what life is all about and where we are going. We are constantly searching for an answer in our loneliness.
Today, the holy Church offers for our consideration two men who were just like us, the holy Apostles Peter and Paul. We see them as two fierce servants of the Lord who were sent by Him for a single purpose: to spread the Gospel message to all people. We see them in their later transformation, but we forget that they, like us, had to overcome many struggles in their lives. It is because they are real people with real fears and living real lives that they are held as examples of what it means to live the life of Christ in the real world.
Peter’s name had been Simon who was a fisherman. He was an impulsive man – ready to jump into any situation without really looking at what the consequences might be. Remember when Peter was in the boat with the other Apostles and saw the Lord walking towards them on the water? Immediately he wanted to go to the Lord. But when he saw the waves and felt the wind he panicked. He began to sink. How many times in our own lives have we had a crisis of faith? How many times have we felt that sinking feeling of failure and not being able to go it alone?
It was only through humility that Peter was saved. His cry, “Lord save me!” was answered by his Master reaching out and grabbing him by the hand and raising him up.
Remember when Jesus tried to teach the Apostles about His upcoming betrayal and death for the first time (Mark 8:31-33)? It was Peter who took the Lord aside and rebuked Him. How many times do we in our lives try to tell God how to do things the right way? How many times do we not want the Lord’s will to be done but our own way in all things. Jesus’ response was, “Get behind me Satan! For you are not mindful of the things of God but the things of men.”
All of us remember the night that Jesus was arrested and needed Peter the most. Peter not only denied even knowing Him three times, but ran and hid. Incredibly it was the same night that Peter proclaimed that he was willing to die with Jesus. How many times have we denied being a disciple of the Lord through our sinful lives? How many times have we tried to run and hide from His face because of the pain caused by our betrayals?
It was only through repentance that Peter is forgiven. We hear those words of the Lord, asking Peter, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?” (John 21:15-19). Peter’s response, “Lord, You know all things, You know that I love You.” Peter is forgiven his denial of the Lord and is commissioned once again to be His follower, “Feed my lambs.”
Saul, before he was Paul, was a devout Pharisee. He was a participant at the stoning of the first Christian martyr, Stephen. He was highly educated in the Jewish faith and would accept no deviation from the letter of the Law. He vowed to stop and destroy the newly formed Christian Church. He was a man filled with a hateful purpose. Perhaps he was a person more like us than we realize. How many times in our own self-righteousness have we “persecuted” others around us? How many people have we hurt, perhaps not physically, but definitely emotionally and even perhaps spiritually or psychologically by our words and/or actions?
We hear in Acts of the Apostles, Chapter 9 of Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus. He was blinded by the Light of Christ and falling to the ground, he heard the Lord’s voice: “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” Perhaps it is the same voice we hear when we are persecuting those around us. Saul’s response was repentance – a true change in his life – that he proclaims in his Letter to the Galatians (2:20) “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives within me.”
Let us give up our lonely search for the meaning in our lives and embrace the examples of the holy Apostles, Peter and Paul. Through humility and repentance, let us live the life that we were called to live as today’s disciples of Jesus Christ. Let us make a good confession and turn our selfish lives around so that we too might exclaim that it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives within me. Let us sing in thanksgiving for their guidance part of the Akathist Hymn to Saints Peter and Paul:
Rejoice, with Peter, O Paul, for you are like the tables of the Law of the Lord!
Rejoice, teachers of love for God and neighbor!
Rejoice, all you holy Apostles, who perfectly kept all the commandments of the Lord!
Rejoice, you who left all and followed after Christ and found all in Him!
Rejoice, O holy first-enthroned Peter and Paul, * with all the Holy Apostles.