Date: June 29, 2020 ()

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We celebrate today the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul. One of the emphases of this feast is the coming together of the Gentile and the Jews to the One faith in Christ. Pope Benedict shares his reflection on a favorite image in Christian iconography that shows the embrace of the two Apostles on their way to martyrdom:

“We can say their martyrdom itself is the realization of a fraternal embrace in the deepest sense. They died for the one Christ and in their witness for which they gave their lives; they are one."

In the New Testament writings, we can, so to speak, follow the development of their embrace, this creation of unity in witness and mission. Everything begins when Paul, three years after his conversion, goes to Jerusalem "to visit Peter" (Gal 1:18).

Fourteen years later he went up to Jerusalem again to lay 'before those who were of repute" the Gospel he was preaching in order to avoid the risk of "running or [having] run in vain" (Gal 2:1f.). At the end of this encounter, James, Peter, and John shake hands with him, thus confirming the communion that links them in the one Gospel of Jesus Christ (cf. Gal 2:9).

Furthermore, the collaborators mentioned at the end of the First Letter of Peter - Silvanus and Mark - were likewise close collaborators of St. Paul. "It is a beautiful sign of the growth of this inner embrace which developed despite the diversity of their temperaments and tasks. The communion of the one Church is clearly demonstrated by the embrace of the great Apostles, in their cooperation.”

Today, there are vestiges of division prominently looming in the church. Let us not add up to this division. We rather pray for the unity of the church and find means to restore or strengthen its unity keeping in mind what Jesus desired: “that they may all be one.” We have the iconic embrace of these two apostles on the occasion of their feast to remind us that the beginnings of this church are the coming together of different worlds to become one in Christ.

In a sermon in the year 395, St. Augustine of Hippo said: “Both apostles share the same feast day, for these two were one; though they suffered on different days, they were as one. Peter went first, and Paul followed.” There was one gospel they preached that led them to one destiny - to the cross of Christ. Let us embrace what they believed, their life, their labors, their sufferings, their preaching, and their confession of faith.