The Collect for the Solemnity of Ss Peter and Paul describes them as the founders of our faith, praying that the Church might always follow their teaching. Both were called to be Apostles, but in very different circumstances. Peter, the Galilean fisherman, was summoned from his nets from the outset of his master’s ministry; Paul, a citizen of the Roman and Hellenistic worlds, from his fanatical persecution of the early Church. In background and temperament they could not have been more different, and yet both were called to be Apostles, sharing a martyr’s death in Rome.
Unqualified Faith was the common thread uniting such diverse lives. Theirs was not the faith of timid affirmation. It was an all-consuming surrender of themselves to the person of Christ. Paul described this perfectly in his letter to the Philippians: “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness which is my own, but that which is through faith in Christ, and is from God.”
Such faith, God’s gift to these founding Apostles, became the passion that ignited the infant Church. We must continue to be challenged by the quality of their faith. The former lives of Peter and Paul had been so very different, and yet both, having recognised the presence of Christ in their lives, surrendered themselves to that presence. In so doing they became more than teachers. They became the power of Christ’s Resurrection at work in the world. Let us pray that our confession of faith might become the power of Christ’s Resurrection in all that we way and do. It is in prayer, from our inmost being, that we surrender our lives to the Lord, allowing him to become the foundation of our lives. Such was the surrender that prepared Peter and Paul for martyrdom. “My life is already being poured away as a libation, and the time has come for me to be gone. I have fought the good fight to the end. I have kept the faith.”
Few of us are called to the martyrdom suffered by Peter and Paul, and yet all are called to the daily martyrdom of a faith surrendered to the Lord. We can choose to live a life that is sensitive to God’s presence. Such awareness will present many crossroads, moments that either summon us to a positive engagement with Christ, or are lost for ever.
St Peter’s confession of faith at Caesarea Philippi was such a moment. Jesus had summoned his disciples on the shores of Galilee. Now he demanded something more: “‘But you’, Jesus said, ‘who do you say that I am?’” Jesus was, in effect, challenging them to acknowledge all that he had become for them, and to commit themselves to all that they would become for him. While the other disciples recounted hearsay without any personal commitment, Simon Peter did not hesitate. “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Such is the faith that is not afraid to step out of the shadows, that openly confesses itself for the Lord. If we fear that such open faith lies beyond our strength, we are echoing the words of Jesus: “Simon, Son of Jonah, you are a happy man! Because it was not flesh and blood that revealed this to you, but my father in heaven.”
Lord we believe. Reveal yourself in our lack of faith.