These two men would probably never had associated with one another in life – they may not have even liked each other. Paul was a Pharisee, a devotee of the Law and a fierce defender of the perfect practice of the Jewish faith. Anyone who deviated in the least bit from that Law was unclean and beneath him. Peter was a rough tradesman – a fisherman, burly, dirty, hard-working and impetuous. Their paths would never have crossed in the normal world of first-century Palestine.
However, today we are celebrating them both, together – SAINTS Peter and Paul. Their names roll off our tongues together, almost automatically in a Catholic Christian world. We have churches named from the two of them together, and many holy cards and images depict them together, serenely contemplating the heavenly glory as one.
What happened that these two fierce individuals are so connected in our Christian psyche now? Why not spread them out, one feast for Peter and one for Paul – or at least pair Peter with his brother Andrew? Something must have happened that forever entwines the destinies and memories of these two apostles.
It is because of Christ that Sts. Peter and Paul are now celebrated together and we praise their memories in the same breath. It is because of their relationship with Jesus that they are so connected. Both of them had an intense love of Jesus, and it is that love – and that love alone – that unites them.
So too with us in our Church, our parish.
We are very different people here. At Christ the King, we are a community forged from three separate parishes. I can look around and notice “Crucifixion people,” “Good Shepherd people,” and “Holy Trinity people.” We can recognize ourselves as “church Mass-goers” and “auditorium Mass-goers.” Even deeper, we have men and women from the United States, Latin America, Africa, and Asia. We speak different languages, have different family traditions, and different histories.
And yet here we are, celebrating together. Why? It is not because we share so much in common. Rather, it is because we share one thing in common.
We share Jesus.
It is Jesus, and our relationship with Him, that unites us – calls us together in worship – and sends us out to share His love with everyone. Jesus is the “and” in Sts. Peter and Paul. He is the “and” in “you and I.”
This week, I become the pastor of St. Bernadette as well as Christ the King. We are on our way to becoming the “Pastorate” of Christ the King and St. Bernadette. Maybe there are reasons why people are parishioners at one of those places and not the other. Maybe there is a history. Maybe there are hurts. There certainly were those things between Peter and Paul.
However, despite those things, there is still that One Thing that unites us – that calls us together – that binds us eternally.
Jesus is the “and” in “Christ the King and St. Bernadette,” and we can never forget that. Today’s feast day is more than simply an event on our calendar. It is an invitation again to that relationship with Jesus that binds all Christians together – whatever our experience, whatever our limitations, whatever our stories.
It is an invitation to “and.”