Saint Peter and Saint Paul: two different persons called by our Saviour Jesus Christ to preach the same Gospel of love and salvation.
Saint Peter, called Simon before his meeting with Jesus, changed his name to Cephas (Peter). His Jewish faith was inherited from his family and cultivated in the Synagogue, a Jewish context with some Hellenistic influence like the one in Galilee, with a mixture of ethnic groups. Simon-Peter was a simple man, a fisherman who met Jesus and became a “fisher of men”.
Saint Paul, a Roman citizen, was initially called Saul. He was a zealous man with an extensive theological culture achieved in Tarsus and in Jerusalem. Though contemporary with Jesus, he never met Him during His life on earth. Out of a great zeal for the Jewish tradition, Saul persecuted the new community of the disciples of Jesus. While doing so, he met Jesus, who asked him: “Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” (Acts 9,4). Then he understood that Jesus is alive and is the real Messiah. At the same time, he learned that Jesus Christ, the Head of the Church, is inseparable from the Church, His Body. Then Saul the Persecutor, converted and baptized, became Paul the Apostle, the most zealous missionary of Christ and of His Church.
Different in place of birth and culture and professional formation, Saint Peter and Saint Paul were called to be apostles also in a different way and received from Christ and from the Church different missions: to Saint Peter, the preaching of the Gospel among the Jewish people and to Saint Paul, the mission among the Gentiles.
What do Saint Peter and Saint Paul have in common?: The essential and the plenitude. That means fervent faith in Christ and living in communion with Him. Both of them had a powerful experience of repentance or conversion. Peter denied Christ three times. Then he wept bitterly and loved Christ until his death in martyrdom. Saint Paul persecuted the Church of Christ and then regretted it for all his life; he worked for the Church more than any other. Peter and Paul also have in common their strong love for Christ and for His Church. Both were martyred in Rome, and the date of 29 June 67 A.D. has been kept in the tradition of the Church.
Saint Peter and Saint Paul are for us teachers of the faith, model missionaries and intercessors for the life and unity of the Church. Through their life, deeds and writings, they urge us to love Christ, His Gospel and His Church, to work for the healing and salvation of all human persons and people, without difference of race and gender, nation or social status. They are for us teachers of reconciliation, of forgiveness, of unity and of holiness. They teach us to pray continuously, to work good deeds continuously and never to count on ourselves more than on the grace of the living God shown in Jesus Christ.