The Apostolic Tradition of the Church is held in equal balance with the inspired Sacred Scripture; they complement each other. It is the same complement that is symbolised in the persons of the great apostles, Peter and Paul. It is about two different apostles, who have slightly different pastoral approaches and charism but same Faith, same Hope and same Love of Christ through one baptism. They are like two pillars holding the Church Building. But the Church is not just the building but the people of God.
The gospel of this Sunday speaks of Peter’s great confession of faith. He is the first human to acknowledge Jesus as the Christ, the son of the living God. Jesus, in return, confirms Peter’s new identity. “Simon son of Jonah, from this moment, you shall be called Peter, upon this rock I will build my church; and the gate of the underworld shall never prevail against it.” The promise of this Church built upon Peter is realised in Paul and the rest of the apostles. Paul engaged in the great commission of Christ who said to his disciples to go forth and preach the goodnews. Peter held the Faith Tradition as a great custodian, while Paul made this Faith Tradition known to the wider world, thanks to them for the universality of the Church today. Paul, at the dramatic moment of his conversion questioned, “Who are you Lord?” – That genuine question of those who seek Christ with sincere heart. On the other hand, Peter responded to this question when he made that profound profession of his Faith, “You (Jesus) are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” It is the same moment that Jesus commissioned Peter as the Rock upon which the Church would be built. Eventually and ironically, Peter would be reminded of his position as a follower of Christ and not meant to be “satana”, which means a stumbling block. He is meant to be the rock of foundation supporting the Faith of others and not a hindrance to Christ’s mission. This is a lesson for us as a Church and as individuals. If by any reason we cannot help, let us not hinder. Ours is not to be in front of Jesus, leading the way; we must be behind Jesus, as true followers. He says, anyone who wants to be my disciple must take up his cross and follow me.
Worth mentioning are the witnesses borne by these great men of the Church. When we talk about their witnesses, what may easily come to our minds is how they spoke and wrote about Christ or how they worked hard in different ministries and missions; or how they witnessed by the ultimate price of martyrdom. These are great witnesses. However, one of their greatest witnesses is that of their human weaknesses. Peter denied Jesus three times; very much ashamed of himself for that and truly sorry. Paul talks about this human weakness of his that is like a thorn in the flesh (some sort of addiction?); the more he tries to do the right thing he ends of doing the opposite. But this led him to trust less in his own power but to submit to the grace of God; for when I am weak, I am strong. In this, Peter and Paul have witnessed to the frailty of the human person and the power of God who strengthens us. The Church is both human and divine; the Church of both saints and sinners; the Church that relies on God’s grace, especially in moments when we cannot but entrust our cares to Christ the solid rock.
At the end of his mission of bearing witness to Christ, Paul writes from prison: I have fought the good fight, I have run a good race; my life has been poured out like a libation. What awaits me is the crown of glory which Christ has prepared for me. By this he professes his faith, his hope and the love of Christ that inspires these virtues. Faith without the practical expression of love is a hopeless one.