Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, Apostles – June 29th – Mt 16:13-19
Today, the Universal Church celebrates the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, Apostles. We could say that the lives of both of these Apostles exemplify the sort of spiritual transformation envisioned by the Spiritual Exercises, which means we can compare their lives to our own, and see how well we are advancing on the path to holiness.
Both Apostles are aware of their great sinfulness, yet both strived to conform their lives to Christ. For both, this path let through the Cross of suffering to unending happiness.
Both Peter and Paul were aware of their great sinfulness, which is the fruit of the First Week, but also the essential starting point for a life of holiness: the Greek verb used to describe when “Peter went out and wept” is one that refers to a repeated action, something Peter did time and time again. Likewise, Saint Paul, in his first letter to Timothy, writes “This saying is trustworthy and deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. Of these I am the foremost” (1:15).
Yet, having acknowledged their sinfulness, in the spirit of the Second Week both strove to follow the example of Christ. As Peter writes in his first letter, Christ has called us to follow Him, since “He suffered for [us], leaving us an example that we should follow in his footsteps” (2:21). Or, as Paul tells the Corinthians, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Cor 11:1).
For both, this following meant the cross and suffering, just as Christ suffered out of love for us, as we experienced during the Third Week. As Peter says in his first letter, “Beloved, do not be surprised that a trial by fire is occurring among you, as if something strange were happening to you” (4:12), since trials are not strange, but rather the daily bread of one who follows Christ. Likewise, Paul tells us that he never “boasts except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Gal 6:14).
However, in the spirit of the Fourth Week, these sufferings are to end with the joy of heaven. “Rejoice to the extent that you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that when his glory is revealed you may also rejoice exultantly” (1 Pt 4:13), Peter tells us; Paul adds “eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, and what has not entered the human heart, what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Cor 2:9).
Let us pray, through the intercession of Saints Peter and Paul and Mary, Queen of the Apostles, for the grace to conforming our lives entirely to Christ, both in the spirit of the Spiritual Exercises, but also in the footprints of all the saints of the Church.