Feast of Saints Peter and Paul

saints peter and paul

Sister Helen Robert Boyd shared the following reflection with the Sisters and Associates at liturgy on June 29th.

Today we celebrate two giants of early Christianity, Peter and Paul. Both are held in the highest esteem by the Church as can be seen by the prominent positions that their statues hold in St. Peter's Square in Rome—one to the right and the other to the left of the Basilica. Their spirits seem to hover above this famous square.

Interestingly, both men shared a dark past that would not have merited them such an exalted position. We know how many times the impulsive Peter placed his foot in his mouth and how Jesus with infinite patience forgave him whom he would later call “the Rock.” Unfortunately, even after Jesus' warnings, Peter failed him when he most needed his support and love.

Paul, on the other hand, did not share in Jesus’ public ministry as Peter had but rather spent much time persecuting the followers of this new rabbi. Paul writes in his letter to the Galatians (1:13) that he “persecuted the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it.”

What do these early followers of Jesus have to do with us 21 centuries later? Such lives give great insights into God's unending trust and hope for his followers today. Just as God never gave up on Peter and Paul, so too, God has offered us the same trust to carry out His mission today.

Our call as Sisters to walk in the footsteps of Jesus and the saints began on that sacred day, so many years ago when each of us knelt at the railing in Sacred Heart Chapel and asked for God's mercy and the holy habit of the Order of St. Dominic. We responded to God's call similar to Paul when he encountered Christ on the road to Damascus (Acts 9) and Peter when he responded to the Lord's question, “Simon Peter, do you love me more than these?” (John 21)

From these moments forward, Peter and Paul changed from being deniers and persecutors to courageous defenders of Christ regardless of the cost. Peter was hounded by Jewish and Roman authorities, but never again would he deny his Lord and God. We can imagine the profound look of sadness in the eyes of Jesus at his denial. A legend suggests that Peter regretted his action so greatly that he shed tears throughout his life that caused rivulets in his cheeks.

Although he never mentioned specifically what it was, Paul was plagued by a “thorn in the flesh” from which he suffered continuously. (2 Corinthians 12). He said that the thorn kept him from becoming conceited and we do know from the Acts of the Apostles that he endured many sufferings for the sake of the Mission (shipwrecked, imprisonment, lashes, etc.).

We see both of these men—although imperfect—continued to trust in God's providence and Christ's promise to be with them all their days. Thus, Saint Paul and Saint Peter became new people.  As Paul wrote, “I no longer live but Christ lives in me." (Galatians 2:20)

Surely, as Peter and Paul looked back on their missionary years and saw their successes, failures, and disappointments they grew in their trust and hope that God would see them through difficult times. Millennia later we also know that our challenges today including diminishment, aging, and physical disabilities (our thorns in the flesh today) will be the seeds to create a new earth where peace and justice will prevail.

And finally, as we approach the upcoming synod of bishops, let us respond to Peter's successor Pope Francis to pray that the bishops have the courage to put aside their differences as Peter and Paul did for the good of Christ's body the Church.

In all humility let us consider the words of the 14th-century Persian poet and mystic Hafez, to ask our God to use us as channels to spread the Good News wherever we are: “I am a hole in the flute that the Christ's breath moves through--listen to this music.”

– Sister Helen R. Boyd, OPSister Helen Robert Boyd

 Sister Helen resides in Dominican Convent where she serves
on the Life Enrichment Committee and co-chairs the
Mission Outreach Committee.






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