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 Homily for the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul (29th June, 2014) on the Gospel

Acts 12:1-11;
Ps 33:2-9 (R.V.5 or 8)...
2Tim 4:6-8.17-18;
Matt 16:13-19.


Topic: Two Captains in One Boat

 We are celebrating today two great pillars of the Church – Saint Peter and Saint Paul. I prefer to refer to them as two captains in the same boat (Church). It is important to recall that during the presentation of Jesus in the Temple in line with the Law of Moses, that righteous and devout man Simeon (cf. Lk 2:25) described him as: “a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel” (Lk 2:32). And Christ suffered and died for this light to be proclaimed both to the Jews and to the Gentiles (cf. Acts 26:23). These men (Peter and Paul) were the instruments through which Christ, the light, shines both to the Jews and to the Gentiles (cf. Acts 22:17-21; Rom 11:13; 15:15-16; Gal 2:1-10; Eph 3:8). The Sunday missal: A new edition (1995) describes them thus: “… the princes of the apostles, from whom we derive our Christian faith. The Lord stood by them and gave them power, so that through them the whole message might be proclaimed for all the world to hear” (p. 940).
 
In the gospel reading, Jesus’ questions took a funnel-like shape, it moved from general to particular. He began by asking his disciples from people’s opinion about him to theirs. Without doubting the fact that faith comes through hearing (cf. Rom 10:17) there will be serious problem if one’s faith begins and ends with what one hears or reads. In his letter to the Romans Paul writes: “For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified” (Rom 2:13). One’s knowledge of God must go beyond what one is told to what one knows. Hence to Peter’s confession Jesus replied: “17Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. 18And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it” (Matt 16:17-18). What one is told helps one to come to Jesus to know him and the Igbo adage puts it thus: onye no mmadu nso na-anu isi eze ya meaning that one knows a person better when he or she comes close to the person.
In his letter to the Galatians we read: “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal 2:20). This assertion and so many others made by Paul can only be made by one who knows God.
 
It is a common saying that there cannot be more than one captain in a boat without capsizing. So, how could these great captains be in the same boat without capsizing it? They have lessons for all of us both those at the leadership positions and the lead both in the Church and the world.
 
Although Saint Peter was entrusted with the responsibility of shepherding the whole Church (cf. Matt 16:18; Jn 21:15-17), he was aware that he would not do the job alone hence his extension of the hand of fellowship to Paul, cf. Gal 2:9. As people who are saddled with various responsibilities today both in the Church and in the world, how far do we extend hands of fellowship to others? Sometimes we tend to see even the work of God for instance as ours. It is not and will never be and it is the responsibility of the owner of the vineyard to appoint those to work in his vineyard, cf. Matt 9:36-38; Lk 10:2.
 
In the life of Saint Paul we see a man full of talents yet very humble. Hence despite the revelations he received from Jesus Christ he acknowledged the pillars of the Church. He was also aware of the fact that one could run out of track (in vain). Hence he submitted to the pillars of the Church the gospel he was preaching, cf. Gal 2:2. How many who are talented today in one way or another are ready to submit to anybody even to God?
 
Before I go on, I plead for your understanding and be certain that I respect every religion and church. The men we are celebrating today laid for us good examples to follow, cf. 1Cor 11:1 because they first followed Christ who emptied himself and took the form of a servant, cf. Phil 2:5-8. It is the inability to submit even to God that results to what we see today. Although Churches cite these saints and I believe they also hold them in high esteem yet it is difficult to see those who follow their examples. If Paul had not submitted to Peter the result would have been a different ministry which Paul recognized as running in vain because Christ said: “… I will build my church …” not churches, cf. Matt 16:18. Based on these facts I conclude that it is possible that some run in vain because of pride. We would have not been celebrating Paul today if he had ran in vain. Today is the favourable time. Borrowing the words of the Psalmist I say: “Harden not your hearts” (Ps 95:8; cf. Heb 3:7-8). With the prophet Joel I urge you to “… rend your hearts and not your garments. Return to the LORD, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and repents of evil” (Joel 2:13). With the lives of Saints Peter and Paul it is evident that the presence of more than one captain in a boat does not capsize the boat but the absence of Christ in a boat, cf. Matt 14:22-32.
 
Bible Readings: Rom 10:5-21; Gal 2:1-10; 18-21; Phil 2:1-18; Matt 14:22-32.
 
Silent Prayer: Do you accept the God in others?

 Let us pray: God, may we always see you in our fellow men and women and be humble enough to accept you – Amen.
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