These two men for today’s feast are ones which are vastly different from each other, yet at the same time complement each other. Most if not all of these entries, I feel, are straw that animals should use to sleep on, if not for other things; when discussing the primacy of Peter and the Papacy, I am in no way qualified to discuss or explain such things.
I like to give credit where credit is due, and I have given shoutouts to this awesome man before, but Fr. Mike Schmitz posted a video on explaining the Catholic Church being the one, true, apostolic Church that Christ himself founded. I recommend that those wishing to properly understand the purpose of Peter (now succeeded centuries later by Pope Francis) and his role in the church watch this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q5G_6I4DIIE&list=LLra7UbUnSUw9__tjDA1-k3g&index=20
Hopefully, understanding the Papacy and the purpose of Pope Francis has become a little bit better. For today, this blog entry is merely to look at the two men as well as the readings from today’s mass.
First, Peter (called Simon it seems whenever he screwed up, which was often), was a fisherman; he was hot tempered, impatient, and foul mouthed. At the same time, he was extremely passionate when he wanted to be. He was susceptible to mood swings like everyone else; he would be filled with awe and mystery at what Christ was teaching him, anger and even denial at Christ' passion, trembling with fear when walking out on the water and before Pentecost, and sorrow when he realized his denial of Christ. Honestly, I think Christ picked the right person to be the first Holy Father, because he was so human; he knew what his sheep were facing, he knew how they were hurting. If we want to tie in Divine Mercy, St. Peter definitely experienced it on more than one occasion (especially after Christ’ Resurrection). In this first reading, the release of Peter from jail could be taken as God showing Peter Divine Mercy, not because of anything Peter did; indeed, he was definitely on fire well after Pentecost and he was showing how his passion was being turned toward God (incidentally, Aquinas mentions how passions can be both good and bad, it depends upon how they're directed, otherwise they could blind people’s reasoning). Christ told Peter that he would be taken to places he would not want to go, and he was willing to take that risk (in this case, being put in prison, which isn’t the first time that’ll happen).
Now let’s look at St. Paul; when you think about it, both Peter and Paul had their passions and even their zeal in common; however, each were directed differently. St. Paul was a tent maker and rabbi (incidentally, some pieces of his tents are still around today!), and in his mind, he felt that killing Christians was something God would want. To Saul, he was trying to follow the New Law to the best of his ability, and killing those such as St. Stephen was how he felt the New Law should be carried out.
This is another quick sidenote, but when I use the terms Old Law and New Law, I mean two different things (although they do have similarities); the Old Law, according to Aquinas, was the 10 Commandments (these were to more or less establish a relationship or friendship with God). The problem was that the Pharisees were trying to follow these not only in a wrong way, but also were going maybe a little too far. The New Law was based out of Deuteronomy, or the Shema (Love God with your whole heart, soul, and strength). In reality, the Shema represented the Old Law and the 10 Commandments were supposed to show us how to do this. The New Law was added through events such as the Sermon on the Mount (Love your neighbor as yourself). In some ways, both Peter and Paul showed us how to do both of these, and in reality both of these sentences (which Christ calls the Greatest Commandment) are the 10 Commandments wrapped up in 1. They show us how to love God with our whole heart, soul, mind and strength, as well as how to love our neighbor as we should love ourselves.
In some ways, both Peter and Paul showed us how to do both of these, Peter the Shema, and Paul the latter (that being loving our neighbors as ourselves). We can see how in the second reading, St. Paul is reaching the end of his life while writing to Timothy (who was about 18 when St. Paul asked him to join him); He feels at peace that he was able to turn his life around for the Lord.
One seminarian summed up Peter and Paul like this: both experienced God’s mercy to one degree or another. Both used these moments to take inventory, and because of this personal encounter with God’s mercy, they were able to go out to all the world and tell the good news. What I have a hard time wrapping my head around is the second half of the seminarian’s tweet; that same mercy is with Me, it’s with you. I consider the first half of my life like Saul in many respects, and once I was able to have an experience like Peter, like Paul, I was finally beginning to become the person Christ wished me to be from the beginning of time.
This year has been the Jubilee Year of Mercy, and I will confess that I probably am not the best example example of someone who is trying to live it out; I have never really done any physical (corporal) works of mercy, and I feel that to do the spiritual works of mercy is easy and not really ones that count (in fact, I feel somedays more a hypocrite). The Holy Father is the best example of someone who does both, and both Peter and Paul did this after they experienced it. I can’t really find any decent excuse (especially as I look for work), because even when we are confused about what to do with our lives, we can still be merciful (look at Mary and the Visitation).
The big take away here is that we are called to show Divine Mercy, that’s definitely true in the lives of Peter and Paul. Yet, this is where I take comfort; one reason why I am so drawn to the Dominican Order is simply for the fact that its members are so diverse. St. Thomas Aquinas is a hero of mine because he was able to do huge works of mercy simply by teaching and writing about Truth and sharing that with others. If you are someone who struggles with a bad self-image (or like me, maybe not the best one), who struggles to find self-worth, let the Divine Mercy that St. Peter and Paul transform you; let their lives be hope and an example for you. Above all, ask God (which incidentally, that’s what pray means, to ask) to show you how you can be healed, and help others with their healing.
Sts. Peter and Paul, pray for us.