Today, we honor the two great apostles Peter and Paul, who are celebrated together because as St. Augustine said, they were as one, both in their mission and in their suffering for the Church, even though their martyrdoms occurred separately. They are also considered the two founders of the Church in Rome. St. Peter was with Our Lord from the beginning, having been called by Him to follow Him as one of the original twelve apostles. St. Paul was originally called Saul and was a relentless persecutor of the early Christians. He was also present at the martyrdom of St. Stephen. His conversion occurred on the road to Damascus, where he was struck by lightning and heard the voice of Jesus calling on him to stop persecuting Him. St. Peter, although being with Jesus from the beginning, denied knowing Him during His trial. Both men made monumental mistakes in their lives, and yet became two of the most celebrated saints in the Church. We too, although sinners and incapable of doing good without the grace of God, can with His help assist the Church in fulfilling His will and bringing His light to others.
Both St. Peter and St. Paul show us how to do this through sincere repentance, amendment of life, and perseverance. After his denial, St. Peter showed true remorse and humility, not daring to be so prideful as to say that he could stand by Jesus through his own strength again. He was meek and humble as he made up for his denials by affirming his love for Jesus three times. He continued this humility for the rest of his life, drawing his strength to remain faithful from Jesus. St. Paul, struck by the reality of what he heard on the road, immediately turned his life around and began to preach the Name of Jesus once he had recovered his strength and sight. He spent the rest of his life ministering to the Gentiles and, like Peter, attributing the strength he received to preach and remain faithful to God.
St. Peter and St. Paul show us the example of sinners who trusted in the mercy of God and His Providence and turned to Him in order to spend their life in His service. They grew the Church and were looked up to by their fellow members. Yet they always were aware of their weakness and that they needed the grace of God to persevere and not fall into the trap of abandoning Him again. We need this grace too, and we need to ask God continually for it. If we do that, however, and truly work on our relationship with God, it will show in our efforts to spread the Gospel to others and bring them to the Church. The intercession of Sts. Peter and Paul can also help us in this mission, and their prayers will help to give us the strength we need.
St. Peter and St. Paul, pray for us!