Tag Archives: Paul

The Feast of Peter and Paul

The church of Rome considers Peter and Paul, who came to the city and preached and died  there during the persecution by Nero in the early 60s, her founders. Their burial places are marked by great churches, St. Peter at the Vatican and St. Paul Outside the Walls.

They could not be more unlike: Paul, the educated Pharisee from Tarsus was a latecomer  to Christianity but like a runner raced from place to place in the Roman world to plant the faith. In the end, he believed God would give him “a crown of righteousness”  for his efforts.

Peter,  the fisherman from Galilee, was named by Jesus  the Rock on whom he would build his church. Denying Jesus three times, he was called by Jesus  three times  to shepherd the flock. Warily, he went to baptize a Roman soldier, Cornelius, in Caesaria; then he went to the gentile cities of Antioch and Rome to tell of the One he had seen with his own eyes.

The church today prays for Paul’s zealous faith to bring the gospel to the world and for Peter’s deep love for Jesus Christ which he proved by his preaching and death.

Commenting on Jesus’  threefold call to Peter. St. Augustine says it conquered the apostle’s “self-assurance.”

“Quite rightly, too, did the Lord after his resurrection entrust his sheep to Peter to be fed. Not that he alone  was fit to feed the Lord’s sheep, but when Christ speaks to one, he calls us to be one. And he first speaks to Peter, because Peter is the first among the apostles.

“Do not be sad, Peter. Answer once, answer again, answer a third time. Let confession conquer three times with love, because your self-assurance was conquered three times by fear. What you had bound three times must be loosed three times. Loose through love what you had bound through fear. And for all that, the Lord once, and again, and a third time, entrusted his sheep to Peter.”

“Today we celebrate the  the passion of two apostles. These two  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 labors, their sufferings, their confession of faith, their preaching.”

“May your church in all things

follow the teaching of those

through whom she has received

the beginning of right religion.”

The Feast of St. Barnabas

We believe in the communion of saints. One way of sharing life with the saints in heaven and on earth is by recognizing their gifts. That’s what St. Barnabas did. He recognized the gift of Saul of Tarsus.

After his dramatic conversion on the way to Damascus, Paul preached the gospel in Damascus and then in Jerusalem, according to the Acts of the Apostles, but because of his past as a persecutor of Christians, they were suspicious of him. “They were all afraid of him, not believing that he was a disciple.” “Then Barnabas took charge of him and brought him to the apostles, and he reported to them how on the way he had seen the Lord and that he had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had spoken out boldly in the name of Jesus.” (Acts 9, 25-27) Barnabas recognized the grace of God in Saul.

As gentiles became increasingly interested in the gospel, especially in Antioch, the leaders of the Jerusalem church sent Barnabas there to see what to do. “When he arrived and saw the grace of God, he rejoiced and encouraged them all to remain faithful to the Lord in firmness of heart, for he was a good man, filled with the holy Spirit and faith. And a large number of people was added to the Lord. Then he went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he had found him he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a large number of people, and it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called Christians.” (Acts 11,23-26)

Once again, Barnabas recognized Saul, who would become Paul, and sought him out to bring the gospel to the gentiles. Previously, in the Acts of the Apostles the Apostle Peter encountered the gentile Cornelius in Ceasaria Maritima, whom he baptized with his household. But Barnabas knew Paul was better able to preach to the gentiles than Peter, so he brought him to Antioch. The two embarked on a mission to the gentiles. The Acts of the Apostles refer first to “Barnabas and Saul” then gradually it becomes “Paul and Barnabas.” Paul emerged as the gifted apostle.

It was Barnabas who first recognized his gift.

Paul in Sin City

I usually look first at the gospel when I look over the readings for Sunday Mass, but today I’m looking at Paul’s brief introduction to his First Letter to the Corinthian, which we’ll be reading from the next few weeks at Sunday Mass.

Paul wrote a number of letters to the Corinthians, the Christian community he founded after reaching Corinth about the year 50. It was the most exasperating community Paul dealt with, but the Corinthians made him think about faith, so we can thank them for keeping Paul on his toes.

Corinth was a rich, sprawling seaport, being rebuilt as Paul arrived, a frontier city attracting ambitious people from all over the Roman world. They were people who wanted to get ahead, many of them were building large homes for themselves from the money they were making. Corinth was a city of “self-made” people; only the tough survived there. It also was a big center for prostitution and sexual commerce. Today we would call it a “sin” city.

That may be one reason why Paul wanted to establish a church there. He was chosen by God to be the apostle to the Gentiles and bring the gospel to the ends of the earth. Where could that be better done than from a seaport with connections to the whole world. He also thought that if Christianity could take root there, it could take root anywhere.

When Paul came to Corinth around the year 50 AD, he did what anybody has to do when they go to a new place– find a place to stay and get a job. He stayed in the house of Prisca and Aquila, a Jewish Christian couple who owned a small shop in Corinth. He worked as a tentmaker in their shop. As he worked he met people, and Paul spoke to them of Jesus Christ, and they believed.

Then on the Sabbath in the synagogue he made contacts too, but I think Paul probably did most of his preaching when he was working. A lot of things can happen when you are working.

To form new believers, Paul asked some of his friends with large houses to hold meetings there. A lot of things happen in homes that don’t happen in church.

Paul generally founded a church and moved on. But when he moved on, troubles often started in many of those communities, so sometimes he wrote them letters, and sometimes he had to come back himself to try to straighten things out. There were a number of grave problems in the church at Corinth. The church was split into factions, based on wealth, status and friendship. It also was confused about sexual morality.

Paul reminded the Corinthians where they came from and who they were. Not many of you were wise or well-born, he told them. God chooses the weak things. God still does.