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June 29 - Sts. Peter and Paul

Called to Heroism

What makes a hero? Many of us might think of people who have been heroes to us over the course of our lives. We might think of parents, siblings, children, aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins, friends, etc. There is something that they are able to do; some type of quality that they have that makes them a hero. I would argue that the most common quality that you find in a hero is selflessness.

Today, we celebrate the Feast Day of two very unlikely heroes: St. Peter & St. Paul. St. Peter was a fisherman.He wasn’t very wealthy. He wasn’t educated and probably didn’t know how to read or write. He wasn’t the best of speakers. And in the Gospels, we get the feeling that Peter really isn’t a very brave man. So how does this man become one of the greatest Saints in the Church? How is he qualified to be the first Pope of the Church? It is precisely because he learned how to empty himself of himself; he learned selflessness. He let go so that Christ could work through him. Jesus foresaw this, which is why Peter is chosen to be the rock of the Church. It wasn’t because he had some type of superpowers; rather, it was because he was faithful – he was selfless. All of the early church leaders and the Apostles all pointed to Peter as the mediator and the leader. St. Paul was a person who argued much with Peter, but Paul always knew Peter was chosen by Christ for a reason to lead the Church.

Paul is actually Saul’s Christian/Roman name. Paul grew up very differently than Peter. Paul never walked with Christ during Christ’s public ministry. Saul was actually one of the greatest Christian persecutors. As a Pharisee, Saul thought that this rise of Christianity was diluting his beloved Judaism. He was a strong Pharisee, having trained under one of the greatest Pharisees of the time, Gamaliel. The first time we hear of Saul in scripture is actually as he is persecuting and rounding up Christians. He is at the stoning of Stephen, the first Martyr. The folks drop their cloaks at his feet and Saul gets lots of attention. But his encounter with the risen Christ changes everything. He goes from being the greatest persecutor of the Church, to the greatest missionary of the Church. He’s the first to write down about Jesus. He’s the first to travel to many areas. You’d think that he would want to stick with trying to convert his fellow Jews, but he finds that many Jews do not want to convert. He soon changes his mission to the Gentiles (the non-Jews) and Samaritans (half-Jew half Gentile). He says that Christ came for everyone and this New Way is for everyone.

If you read through Paul’s letters and the Acts of the Apostles, you get a little glimpse into not only how they lived, but ultimately how they became the most unlikely of heroes. Paul converts many people, and loves Christ so much that he is willing to be martyred in Rome. And so he is beheaded in Rome. St. Peter is also Martyred in Rome. He spent some of his last years in Rome only to be sentenced to be crucified. He said that he wasn’t worthy to be Crucified in the way of Christ, so he is crucified upside down… the cruelest way to die in the 1st century just became crueler.

These two men are Saints because they were willing to let go of themselves and to fill themselves with Christ. With Christ, they were able to do things beyond their wildest dreams. Because of these two men, we are proud to call ourselves Catholic Christians this day, and without these men, who knows where we would be.

My friends, the most unlikeliest of heroes appear all the time in the world around us. They are our relatives, friends, and neighbors. They are the ones who are steadfast in the vocation the Lord has placed in front of them. It is not that these people don’t fail. It is that they admit their failures. They visit the sacrament of confession. They are willing to grow and blossom from criticism. They pray and reflect. They learn.

We all come from different walks of life. If I were to talk with each person who reads or listens to these words, I would get a different life story. Yet, this life story leads you to here --- right now. You see the importance of prayer and being a member of the Body of Christ. And so to does the person next to you and behind you at Church. Regardless of where we have come from – the Lord calls us today. He calls us ordinary people to do extraordinary things: called to be heroes and called to be Saints. May we learn from Sts. Peter & Paul that even the most unlikeliest of heroes can bless the world in profound ways.