VI Pentecost (Feast of Sts. Peter & Paul [Transferred])

July 1, 2018

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. AMEN.

A Pharisee and the fisherman.  Today we celebrate the feast of St. Peter and St. Paul.  As I thought about these two pillars of the Church, I was drawn to their differences.  Let me share some of the information that I got through a quick search on the internet.

Paul was born in the renowned Grecian commercial and literary city of Tarsus and inherited the rights of a Roman citizen. He received a learned Jewish education at Jerusalem in the school of the Pharisean Rabbi, Gamaliel.  He was familiar with Greek literature, as the style of his writing, his method of arguments, his allusions to Greek religion and philosophy, and his occasional quotations from Greek poets show.

St. Paul was a "Hebrew of the Hebrews," but at the same time was influenced by Greek ideas, and also a Roman citizen.  This means that he combined in himself the three great nationalities of the ancient world, and was gifted with all the natural qualifications for a universal apostleship.

He could argue with the Pharisees as a son of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin, and as a disciple of the renowned Gamaliel, surnamed "the Glory of the Law."   He could address the Greeks in their own language and with the convincing force of their logic. Clothed with the dignity and majesty of the Roman people, he could travel safely over the whole empire.

Then we turn to St. Peter.  His original name was Simon.  He was the son of Jonah and was born in Bethsaida, a town on Lake Genesareth.   The Apostle Andrew was his brother, and the Apostle Philip came from the same town.

Simon settled in Capernaum, where he was living with his mother-in-law in his own house at the beginning of Christ's public ministry. He was married and had children.   Simon pursued in Capernaum the profitable occupation of fisherman in Lake Genesareth, possessing his own boat.  This means that he may well have been quite wealthy.

Like so many of his Jewish contemporaries, he was attracted by John the Baptist's preaching of penance and was, with his brother Andrew, among John's associates in Bethany on the eastern bank of the Jordan.  Because John the Baptist pointed to Jesus and said, "Behold the Lamb of God", Andrew and another disciple followed Jesus to where He was staying and remained with Him one day.

Later, meeting his brother Simon, Andrew said "We have found the Messiah", and brought him to Jesus, who, looking upon him, said: "You are Simon the son of Jonah: You shall be called Cephas, which is interpreted Peter".

Look at the differences of Peter and Paul.  Paul was a sophisticated and educated Pharisee.  He was a Roman citizen, who was fluent in Greek.  Peter was a fisherman, an everyday man – not sophisticated, but ready to “jump in with two feet”.

What struck me was the thought that although these two apostles were so different, the same Lord called them to serve Him.  They preached the same gospel in different ways.

This led me to think about our differences.  Differences as individuals.  Differences in denominations.  Differences in nationalities and cultures.  Sometimes we spend too much time looking at the differences that we forget that the same Lord calls us all to share the same Gospel which can be summed up in the words from the hymn “There is a balm in Gilead”:

“If you cannot preach like Peter, if you cannot pray like Paul, You can tell the love of Jesus and say, ‘He died for all.’”  AMEN.