The Solemnity of SS Peter and Paul has always been one of my favourite feasts. I am not alone in feeling we know these two ‘flawsome’* saints almost as well as we know our own family. This morning, however, I was reflecting how much we don’t know about them. Peter was obviously married because we are told he led Jesus to heal his mother-in-law, but his wife flits namelessly through the pages of history. What did she think of her husband’s enthusiasm for that strange Galilean preacher who took him away from his home and fishing-boat for long periods of time? Did they have children to whom she moaned about their improvident father? Did the children grumble that Dad was never there when they wanted him? Then what of St Paul, wordy and emotional, did anyone ever reply to his letters, especially the harsh ones that called everyone to account, even Peter himself? Was that ‘thorn in the flesh’ about which scripture scholars have speculated endlessly a trial to others as well as Paul himself, or was it just another rhetorical device to drive the point home?
We shall never know the answers to these questions this side of heaven but I think they illustrate something important about the nature of the Church. Although Peter and Paul are about as different as it is possible for two people to be, they are both necessary parts of the Church’s make-up; and the Church herself, because she is the Body of Christ, transcends our knowledge and understanding inasmuch as we can never know all there is to know about her. The ‘unfathomable riches of Christ’ which she mediates are exactly that: unfathomable. This calls for humility in the believer — not the ‘humility’ of those not prepared to think or study or change their mind about anything, but the humility of those who do their theology on their knees, whose every thought has been taken captive for Christ.
May SS Peter and Paul pray for us and for all who will be ordained today as their successors in handing on the faith.
A search in the sidebar will reveal a plethora of previous posts on SS Peter and Paul.