May We Become Co-Workers of Saints Peter and Paul

Today on this penultimate day of June, the universal Church is celebrating with great joyous hope the solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul. But why are these two apostles so great? What is special about them?

The liturgy of the solemnity gives us different reasons why this is so. In the Preface of Saints Peter and Paul beautifully talks about the twofold missions of these pillars of the Church. When it speaks about them as a whole it says that by God’s providence, the blessed Apostles Peter and Paul bring us joy. This joy is fourfold one. First, Peter, foremost in confessing the faith. Second, Paul, its outstanding preacher. Third, Peter, who established the early Church from the remnant of Israel. Fourth, Paul, master and teacher of the Gentiles that you [God] call.

Then, the liturgy succinctly describes the nature of their calling by saying: And so, each in a different way gathered together the one family of Christ. Both of them lived ad litteram = to the letter of Christ’s word when he said: Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit (John 12:24). Mother Church recognizes that so much so that it concludes her liturgical preface with these words: and revered together throughout the world, they share one Martyr’s crown.

When one delves deeper into their writings one will easily detect their deep faith. Irrespective of their different character, mission and special gifts both men showed their total trust in God’s plan for them. In a powerful way they both chose to follow Jesus and give their very lives for him till the last drop. The Church we know today is thanks to their fascinating dedication to Christ as present in his community of believers. How life transforming is unity in diversity!

For Paul faith in Jesus Christ means that we are all one. He writes: There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Gal 3:28). For Peter, faith teaches us that it is by God’s grace that we can now believe in Jesus and be blessed by his promise, salvation. In his First Letter Peter says: By his great mercy we have been born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and to an inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time (1 Pet 1:3-5). Moreover, Paul reminds us that faith is the rule of our life. In his Second Letter to the Corinthians he tells us: For we walk by faith, not by sight (2 Cor 5:7). Peter reminds us that faith in Jesus means believing in Him who is the Holy One of God. He says in the Gospel of Saint John: Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life; and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God (John 6:68-69). Finally, Paul tells that all things were created by the Father through and for His Son and Elder brother Jesus Christ. In his Letter to the Colossians the apostle of the gentiles affirms: He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation; for in him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or authorities — all things were created through him and for him (Col 1:15-16).

A beautiful description of the unique mission and ministry both Peter and Paul embraced is to be found in Psalm 19 when it says: Yet their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world (Psalm 19:4). Captivated by such an extraordinary mission and life of these two great apostles the Fathers of the Church made their own contribution towards the ongoing appreciation of these two giants of the Christians faith.

One of the early four Doctors of the Church, St Ambrose (340-397) says of Peter: Where Peter is, there is the Church. Where the Church is, there is Jesus Christ. Where Jesus Christ is, there is eternal salvation. Saint Augustine of Hippo (354-430) appreciates not only their lives but also the unity of their different ministries of these two eminent apostles. He says: There is one day for the passion of two apostles. But these two also were as one; although they suffered on different days, they were as one. Peter went first, Paul followed. We are celebrating a feast day, consecrated for us by the blood of the apostles. Let us love their faith, their lives, their labours, their sufferings, their confession of faith, their preaching.

In Pope Saint Leo’s the Great’s understanding, also a Father and Doctor of the Church, Peter and Paul are twin lights of Christ’s Body, the Church. This beautiful phrase by itself shows their importance in the establishment of the Church. Pope Leo explains: There must be general rejoicing, dearly beloved, over this holy company whom God has appointed for our example in patience and for our confirmation in faith. But we must glory even more in the excellence of their fathers, Peter and Paul, whom the grace of God has raised to such a height among all the members of the Church that He has set them like twin lights of eyes in that Body whose head is Christ.

Peter and Paul both remind us of Jesus’ calling to you and me, personally, to follow him always in our lives. In his homily on the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul of 29 June 2014, Pope Francis encourages us: Today the Lord repeats to me, to you…: Follow Me! Waste no time in questioning or in useless chattering; do not dwell on secondary things but look to what is essential and follow Me. Follow Me without regard for the difficulties. Follow Me in preaching the Gospel. Follow Me by the witness of a life shaped by the grace you received in baptism….. and holy Orders. Follow Me by speaking of Me, to those with whom you live, day after day, in your work, your conversations and among your friends. Follow Me by proclaiming the Gospel to all, especially to the least among us, so that no one will fail to hear the word of life, which sets us free from every fear and enables us to trust in the faithfulness of God. Follow Me!

Saints Peter and Paul, once Christ called you, you responded with total abandonment to His holy will. Through you, the Church was founded and began to grow. Please pray for me, that I will fully devote myself to the ongoing mission of the Church, so that God can use me according to His holy will. Saints Peter and Paul, pray for me to be your co-worker. Jesus, I trust in You.

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Fr Mario Attard OFM Cap was born in San Gwann on August 26 1972. After being educated in governmental primary and secondary schools as well as at the Naxxar Trade School he felt the call to enter the Franciscan Capuchin Order. After obtaining the university requirements he entered the Capuchin friary at Kalkara on October 12 1993. A year after he was ordained a priest, precisely on 4 September 2004, his superiors sent him to work with patients as a chaplain first at St. Luke's Hospital and later at Mater Dei. In 2007 Fr Mario obtained a Master's Degree in Hospital Chaplaincy from Sydney College of Divinity, University of Sydney, Australia. From November 2007 till March 2020 Fr Mario was one of the six chaplains who worked at Mater Dei Hospital., Malta's national hospital. Presently he is a chaplain at Sir Anthony Mamo Oncology Centre. Furthermore, he is a regular contributor in the MUMN magazine IL-MUSBIEĦ, as well as doing radio programmes on Radio Mario about the spiritual care of the sick.