Tomorrow is the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul. In the Gospel reading for the day we hear the words of Jesus establishing Peter as the first Pope. This happens shortly after Peter declares that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the living God”. Jesus then replies exclaiming, “Blessed are you!”. A similar conversation doesn’t go the same way in last Sunday’s Gospel. Jesus instead rebukes him and tells him to keep quiet, and then goes on to tell the disciples to suffer and take up their cross.
On the surface, the two conversations seem to contradict each other, yet the Lord uses this to clarify each version’s meanings. The two readings may very well be the same conversation, or they might be separate for all we know. We understand from the Acts and from tradition all that Peter went through to suffer during his leadership of the early Church, to the point of being crucified upside down in his act of martyrdom.
So often do defenders of the Faith proudly cite Matthew 16:18 as the foundation of the papacy but rest comfortably in being right than being a Saint. So often, too, do preachers talk about taking up the cross as going through the menial hard work of life overlooking the fact that the cross is not just a burden, but a device of torturous capital punishment. Juxtaposing the ideas above, we see the Lord wants us to go deeper than that.
We honour Saints Peter and Paul for their authenticity in living out their declaration of Jesus as Christ, as Lord, as God. They didn’t just accept their regular burdens but deliberately pushed harder to inherit the sufferings of the cross in their effort to spread the faith.
When in Toronto at the Serviam Ministries’ event, Peter Kreeft mentioned that one cannot convince the insane of the rightness of Catholic teaching through logic alone. We are here to be saints – not to win arguments. To be saints, we sacrifice our righteousness and egos, to the point of death if we have to. Most of us have addictions to this life that hold us back, and we hope for a Simon of Cyrene to lighten our loads so that we don’t have to truly take up the cross. As glorious as we might exalt Peter and Paul for their triumph into Heaven, we can’t forget our own journey must follow theirs deliberately if we are to inherit the same.
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