Martyrdom to Sts. Peter and Paul

26 June 2006: Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul
The Martyrdom of Peter and Paul

Saints Peter and Paul are true martyrs. They have offered their whole lives to God, and they have lived their commitment to God. I believe, what made Peter and Paul great is not so much their spectacular martyrdom. Their being martyrs began when they said yes to Jesus’ call. They have faced death every minute of their lives which only culminated in Peter’s martyrdom of dying upside down on the cross or Paul’s death of being beheaded by a sword. Let us explore their lives to understand what is also demanded of our faith. From St. Paul, we answer the question: “What is the cost of Christian discipleship? And from St. Peter, we answer the question, “Why are we afraid to commit ourselves to Christ?

St. Paul urges us to offer our bodies ---- our very selves --- as a living sacrifice to God (Rom. 12:1). This offering cannot be made in some abstract way with our pious acts. It must be rooted in the acceptance of the concrete details of who we are and the way we live. We must come to accept and even honor our creaturehood. The offering of ourselves can only be the offering of our lived experience, because this alone is who we are. And who we are --- not who we want to be --- is the only offering we have to give. We give God therefore not just our strengths, but our weaknesses, not just our giftedness but also our brokenness. Our duplicity, our lust, our narcissism, our laziness --- all are laid on the altar of sacrifice.

We must not deny or ignore the depth of our evil, for, paradoxically, our sinfulness becomes our bread. When in honesty we accept the evil that is in us as part of the truth about ourselves and offer that truth up to God, we are in a mysterious way nourished. Even the truth about our sinful side sets us free (John 8, 32).

There is, therefore, no need to repress, suppress, or sublimate any of God’s truth about ourselves. Full, total, unvarnished self-knowledge is the bread by which we are sustained. A yes to life means an honest recognition of our own evil, but it is also a yes to God, who in the midst of our evil sustains us and draws us into his righteousness.

Through faith, our self-knowledge leads us to a self-acceptance and a self-love that draw their life from God’s acceptance and love. God accepts the whole of us, and thus, there is reason for us to accept the whole of ourselves --- our goodness and our evil; our loves and our hates; our beautiful and the ugly sides, and even our gray areas.

One reason why we are afraid to commit ourselves totally is simply because we are afraid that we will not be able to fulfill our covenant, or our commitment with others. We may have made many commitments in the past that we were not able to fulfill--- perhaps a marriage or religious vow, or a promise to our children. Mga pangakong napapako. We have promised after an inspiring retreat, or a good confession, not to sin again. We have pledged our loyalty to God, but later on find ourselves not being able to fulfill it. As a result, we feel condemned in our hearts over these broken covenants. We feel that God condemns us ---- or more truthfully, we condemn ourselves. We feel bad about ourselves. We find ourselves unworthy of God’s love.

Remember St. Peter, who made promises that were too much for him (John 13:36-38). Remember St. Paul, who was among those who killed the first Christians like St. Stephen. God knows our weaknesses, our frailties and our shameful past. The lives of Peter and Paul teach us that God knows how to transform us into faithful and effective servants. Oftentimes our hearts will condemn us for things for which God does not condemn us. He is already pleased by our attempts to do His will. The promises and commitments of our hearts are not made in vain. God is working at our deepest desires. He has a way of bringing to pass the longings deep within---- after all, he placed those longings there in our hearts! Through Peter’s longings, we find vision and leadership. Through Paul’s desires, we find passion for mission. Through Jesus and their inspiring lives, we have our Church today.

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