The Church celebrates two great leaders this Sunday in the Solemnity of the Apostles Peter and Paul. I was privileged to visit both their graves in their respective Major Basilicas in Rome earlier this Spring. I’m always in awe at the fleshly historical connection with major events and personalities from Scripture. The wonderment also leaves me to reflect on the situation of church leadership at the time.
The Vigil Mass readings are taken from Galatians. Paul recounts his history and conversion and highlights his visit with Cephas, Peter, a principal leader of the Apostles, and in fact the only one he sees in his visit to Jerusalem. After the segment in the reading, Paul seems to have been commissioned by Peter to continue on with his ministry. Peter’s authority is important here that Paul does not seize credibility on his own accord.
In the next chapter of Galatians, we’re at the council of Jerusalem and Paul recounts his rebuke of Peter’s inconsistencies between dealing with Gentiles and Jews. Not only does he mention his criticism, but he seems to highlight how daring it was for him to oppose “him to his face” as if this is more than just a simple brotherly correction. We know from Acts that Peter closes the council’s open question with a declaration that silences any potential subsequent debate. Peter’s authority is highlighted as important and final.
I don’t know of Paul’s tone, or of Peter’s attitude to being corrected like this. But both apostles knew what was right and made the daring decision to give voice to that truth. Paul’s recollections also highlight the primacy of Peter’s ministry, and that it is not simply a “first among equals” deal but something with far more weight. The Pope might not be perfect, but we expect his decisions to carry the charism of infallibility.
Pray for the Pope and all who advise him. Pray for those who are tempted to disobedience of the Church’s teachings. May we invoke the intercession of Peter and Paul, especially on their great feast, to draw us closer as a Church, pilgrims in the footsteps of the Apostles.
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