Acts 12:1-11 Ps 34:2-9; 2 Timothy 4:6-9, 17-18; Matthew 16:13-19
We might logically ask, “Why are these men being celebrated on a Sunday after Easter, Pentecost, the Holy Trinity and the Body and Blood of Christ?” Jesus trained special men and women to continue his work of saving the human race. We call this model discipleship. Who were those closest to Jesus in his public ministry? Acts 15:b tells us that there were one hundred and twenty in the Upper Room on Pentecost. The three closet friends were: Peter, James and John. I call the apostles his “body guards,” to keep Jesus from being crushed by the large crowds.
Since there was no mass communication then Jesus used 70 or 72 disciples who were also his students and “press agents.” They were sent out two by two to get people ready for Jesus’ visit. If you deduct the number of men, you have some thirty-seven women with Mary, his mother. All of these were not present for every event for three years. They got the “secrets” to the parables Jesus told to the crowds. They were trained to continue his work throughout the world.
Catholics tend to do this more quietly. If we increased our efforts to evangelize others to Jesus we could literally change the world. We are the largest worldwide organization bringing the message of Jesus to others in our parishes, schools, hospitals, nursing homes and missionary work. In the US we basically have the faith because our ancestors in Europe brought it to us.
Peter was appointed by Jesus to be the coordinator of the other apostles and disciples. The current Popes of our church continue an unbroken line from St. Peter. We are one, holy, catholic and apostolic church Jesus himself founded. We didn’t split off from anyone else. Saul (Paul) of Tarsus, a strict Pharisee and Rabbinical student in Jerusalem, was converted by Jesus, after his death on the Cross. Paul’s life was completely changed when Jesus appeared to him. He had the most professional religious training of all of Jesus’ followers. Paul became the greatest missionary.
Simon and Andrew were brothers and fishermen from Bethsaida. Jesus changed Simon’s name to Peter. Peter was given the keys of Christ’s kingdom and a leadership role among the other apostles. After Pentecost he converted many Jews and Gentiles for Christ. Peter was first Bishop of Antioch, Syria, and then moved on to Rome. King Herod Agrippa had killed James, John’s brother in 42, and then had Peter imprisoned in 43, but an angel released him. Peter then moved on to Rome, was arrested and crucified upside down on Vatican Hill about 64 A.D. during the reign of Emperor Nero. Peter was the first Bishop of Rome and Pope Francis is his 266th successor. Peter is buried directly under the high altar of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
Saul was a Jewish Pharisee of the tribe of Benjamin from Tarsus. He went to Jerusalem to be trained as a rabbi. He never mentions meeting Jesus during his life on earth. Zealous Jewish Saul was arresting Christians and bringing them to Jerusalem for trial and execution. Jesus converted Saul on his way to Damascus and changed his name to Paul. After some years of penance, prayer and training Paul was commissioned to conduct four major preaching journeys winning Jews and Gentiles to Christ. He is known as the church’s greatest missionary.
Paul endured many trials, was imprisoned by the Jews and appealed to the Emperor as a Roman citizen. He spent several years under house arrest in Rome and was finally beheaded outside Rome about 67 A.D. He is buried near the place where his head bounced three times, now the Benedictine Basilica of St. Paul’s outside the walls of Rome. My Franciscan order has possession of the house where Paul was under house arrest and preached to the people who came to see him each day. It was the old granary district in Rome.
Have a good Feast of Saints Peter and Paul. Peace and all good!