NOTE ON PODCASTS FOR JULY 4th and JULY 11: Tony and Ken are taking a much needed summer break for the next two weeks. Homily for Tuesday, Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, Apostles Mass during the Day – St. Jude, Given June 29, 2021, by Deacon Ken Steponaitis
For those who need proof that the existence of the Church is a miracle, you can easily use the readings from the solemnity of Peter and Paul as some evidence. Here we have two men who in the beginnings of their lives likely could have never imagined being placed in the positions they were placed.
Peter was a mere fisherman. Likely his only aspirations in life were to survive and pull in a great catch. Clearly, he was a man of God but his knowledge and understanding of his faith was likely rudimentary. I don’t think he was considered a very learned man. Who but God would choose such an unlikely candidate to be what we Catholics believe is the first Pope? In present day terms, it would be like going to the local auto repair shop and choosing an auto mechanic to lead the Church. Not that they couldn’t do it, clearly God knows better than we who would make a good candidate. But not the first place I would look. The story we read in the Gospel gives us a glimpse of how God put Peter formerly known as Simon, in such a position. When Jesus asked, who do people say that I am, Peter, Petros, the Rock, had the right answer, not because he knew it intellectually, but because somehow, he was inspired to believe it. And I have to believe that as Peter was put into the position of actually being the rock that the Church was founded allowed the Holy Spirit to guide Him through prayer, and in faith, trust what he was being taught.
And then we have Paul. This man was in many ways a polar opposite of Peter. He was very learned and a very ambitious man. It was thought that Paul, originally known as Saul, was a tent maker. He was an entrepreneur. Additionally, he was a Pharisee, a leader in the Jewish community. While not a Zealot, he was very concerned about the influence that followers of Jesus were having on the community. He was afraid that Jesus’ followers would undermine the very fabric of his culture and faith. He was a man who became feared by the followers of what was known as, “the way.” Then an amazing thing happened to him. The Resurrected Jesus asked him a simple question. “Why are you persecuting me?” He was blinded, which metaphorically means, he didn’t understand ... was led to a house in Damascus and for three days was in prayer until Ananias taught him about who Jesus is. From that day on, Paul became the most prolific teacher of the Gospel in the known world.
Some might say, these two guys had a change of heart. They came to believe in Jesus and went about spreading the Gospel and baptizing. But here’s miracle. They didn’t just die a natural death. They didn’t just have a change of heart. Something much more profound came over these two men that is unexplainable. Why would a mere fisherman be willing to die for something that was just folklore? Why would an entrepreneur and leader in Jewish faith who wanted so much to do away with Jesus followers be willing to give up his business and his community and become a follower himself? And not just any follower but one willing to die for his inspired beliefs.
There is no earthly reason the Catholic Church should exist. And yet, after 2000 plus years, the institution founded by Jesus and started by two unlikely candidates has so proliferated, we find a communities throughout the world who carry on the beliefs and traditions instilled by these two men. They were led by the Spirit and are the leaders of this Catholic faith of ours.
Anyone who knows the history of the Church knows, there are too many situations that Christians and the Church were put in that from purely human terms should exists. And yet it does and the promise is, it will continue to the end of time. In short, the existence of the Church is a miracle.