The witness of Sts. Peter and Paul
Recalling what united these two giants of our faith
It’s well known that at times St. Peter, the first pope, and St. Paul, “the great apostle,” had disagreements (see Acts 15:1–35, Galatians 2:11–16). Yet they shared the same Lord, the same faith, and the same preaching inspired by the Holy Spirit. In the end they reconciled, history says, as they brought the Gospel to Rome. There they died as martyrs, a few years apart, roughly between 64 and 67 AD. Liturgically the Church pairs them with a single feast: the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul on June 29.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church also pairs Peter and Paul in several paragraphs. Let’s remember what united them — and what unites us to them!
Belief in Jesus as the Son of God
Recall Peter’s proclamation:
[Jesus asked:] “Who do men say that the Son of man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Eli’jah . . . or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God”(Matthew 16:13–16).
The Catechism recounts how Jesus extolls this reply.
Jesus responds solemnly: “Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven” [Matthew 16:16–17]. (CCC, 442)
The same paragraph shows how Paul’s conversion experience and his preaching align with Peter’s.
Similarly Paul will write, regarding his conversion on the road to Damascus, “When he who had set me apart before I was born, and had called me through his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles” [Galatians 1:15–16].
“And in the synagogues immediately [Paul] proclaimed Jesus, saying, ‘He is the Son of God’” [Acts 9:20]. …
Christ’s divine sonship will be the center of the apostolic faith, first professed by Peter as the Church’s foundation [cf. 1 Thessalonians 1:10; John 20:31; Matthew 16:18]. (CCC, 442)
Being witnesses to the Risen Jesus
After Easter, the Catechism says, “a new era” had begun.
Peter and the Twelve are the primary “witnesses to his Resurrection,” but they are not the only ones — Paul speaks clearly of more than five hundred persons to whom Jesus appeared on a single occasion and also of James and of all the apostles [1 Corinthians 15:4-8, cf. Acts 1:22]. (CCC, 642)
From the very day of Pentecost the Church has celebrated and administered holy Baptism. Indeed St. Peter declares to the crowd astounded by his preaching: “Repent, and be baptized . . . in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” [Acts 2:38].
The apostles and their collaborators offer Baptism to anyone who believed in Jesus … [cf. Acts 2:41; 8:12–13; 10:48; 16:15].
Always, Baptism is seen as connected with faith: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household,” St. Paul declared to his jailer … . And the narrative continues, the jailer “was baptized at once, with all his family” [Acts 16:31–33]. (CCC, 1226)
Life in the Holy Spirit
Besides the proper name of “Holy Spirit,” which is most frequently used in the Acts of the Apostles and in the Epistles, we also find in St. Paul the titles: the Spirit of the promise [cf. Galatians 3:14, Ephesians 1:13], the Spirit of adoption [Romans 8:15, Galatians 4:6], the Spirit of Christ [Romans 8:9], the Spirit of the Lord [2 Corinthians 3:17], and the Spirit of God [Romans 8:9, 14; 15:19; 1 Corinthians 6:11; 7:40] — and, in St. Peter, the Spirit of glory [1 Peter 4:14]. (CCC, 693)
Both awaited the second coming of Christ and the redemption of Israel
The glorious Messiah’s coming is suspended at every moment of history until his recognition by “all Israel,” for “a hardening has come upon part of Israel” in their “unbelief” toward Jesus [Romans 11:20–26; cf. Matthew 23:39].
St. Peter says to the Jews of Jerusalem after Pentecost: “Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for establishing all that God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old [Acts 3:19–21].”
St. Paul echoes him: “For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead?” [Romans 11:15]. The “full inclusion” of the Jews in the Messiah’s salvation, in the wake of “the full number of the Gentiles,” [Romans 11:12, 25; cf. Luke 21:24] will enable the People of God to achieve “the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,” in which “God may be all in all” [Ephesians 4:13; 1 Corinthians 15:28]. (CCC, 674)
St. Peter and St. Paul, pray for us!