Happy Feast of St. Peter and St. Paul! These are the two apostles who get most of the limelight in the New Testament. That's because Luke, the writer of the book of Acts which traces the beginning of the worldwide church, features Peter in the first half of his account and Paul in the latter half. He portrays them as kind of like runners in a relay race with Peter passing the torch on to Paul.
In reality, they lived and worked during the same decades, often in the same locale, even dying together. According to tradition, they died very close to one another in time, approx. 64 c.e., during the first extensive persecution of Christians in Rome. This is why they are celebrated on the same day.
What is less known is that they were sometimes in competition. Paul, writing his incendiary and transformative letter to the Galatian Christians accuses Peter of compromising Christ's central message by introducing divisions based on ethnic identity and in terms of those who kept to the rule of circumcision and those who didn't. Unfortunately, we don't hear Peter's reply in his own defense even as Paul suggests that Peter admitted he was "in the wrong." Later on, someone writing in Peter's name (2 Peter, Peter could be the author if the dating of his death is wrong) writes approvingly of Paul's letters even as he complains they are difficult to understand.
Despite their different personalities and (sometimes) competing understandings of Christ, both were called by and empowered to be his witnesses and did so with courage and faith; their love for Christ being fuelled by their profound sense of being redeemed from failure.
In honor of these great apostles, June 29th is also a favorite feast for ordinations. So happy ordination anniversary to the Rev. Denise Doerksen!
Fr. Allen Doerksen