Today we celebrate the two founders of the Catholic Church, Saints Peter and Paul. Of course, Jesus is the founder of the Church but he used these two men to build it up. First there was Peter whose name was Simon. He recognized that Jesus was the Savior the Son of God. And so Jesus said “Blessed are you Simon, this has been revealed to you by my Heavenly Father.” And then changed his name to Peter which means “rock,” and said “Upon this rock I will build my Church.” Just like Jesus wanted to be very clear about the necessity to eat his Body and drink his Blood as we heard last Sunday on the Feast of Corpus Christi, Jesus does not want any ambiguity on this teaching about Peter. The Bible is very clear. Jesus did not come to establish the Bible, although this is important, but he came to establish the Church. And from the Church we get the Bible. And the Bible says that Jesus founded the Church on the rock of Peter. Jesus also gave Peter his authority saying, “I will give to you the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven. Whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in Heaven.” Again the Bible is very clear about Peter’s authority because Jesus did not want us to be confused. This is why we have a pope today, someone who is in charge, someone who has the moral authority to say the Church believes this and rejects that.

St. Paul was also called by Jesus personally, but to spread the Gospel to other nations. He too got a new name in the process. It was Saul but Jesus changed it to Paul showing that he along with Peter have foundational roles for the Church. But why does the Church celebrate these two saints together? Because Peter is the Head of the Church, the stability of the institution. And Paul represents the missionary aspect, the Body of the Church that is growing out into different cultures and nations. One represents stability, the other growth. And so you can’t have one without the other.  For example, if there is a heart but no blood, it does no good to the body. If there is blood without the heart there is nothing to direct the blood where to go. Without a visible authority, a head, that our Church has with the office of Peter which is the pope, there is no stability.  It would all fall apart. That is why the Catholic Church has remained united since Jesus founded it 2000 years ago while other Christian denominations have suffered many divisions.

But without a growing body the Church would just remain isolated in one part of the world. Because the Church’s main mission is the evangelization of all nations, which is the influence of St. Paul, she is truly Catholic, that is, universal. So it takes the influence of both St. Peter and St. Paul. Like the relationship between the heart and blood, one is not good without the other. The Church wants to be present in every country throughout the world. If it is not present, the Church is trying to send missionaries to make it present. Last week I was on retreat with a Franciscan Community and they were preparing to go to Costa Rica to evangelize the native Indians there who have never heard the Gospel. They have the spirit of St. Paul. Their bishop has the spirit of St. Peter and provides their missionary efforts with the stable support it needs. It is how the Church works.

And so we would not have the Church today if it were not for these two great saints. And we need their influence in our parish. We need stability and unity, and that is my role as pastor. I am the head, the authority that keeps everyone united.  But your role is to be like St. Paul and go out and tell people about Jesus, to evangelize your family, your friends, people you meet every day, and to bring them into the Church that Jesus founded. That is how we grow and build up the kingdom. Yesterday our Archbishop ordained six new men to the priesthood so to continue to do the work of the apostles. We need more to answer the call to be like Peter and Paul.

Let us pray for the current representative of St. Peter, Pope Francis, that he can continue to sit at the head of the Church and represent Christ and give the Church stability so that it will not break up into many groups. And we pray that he may inspire many to be like St. Paul, to be missionaries who will continue to go out to other people to spread the good news so that the others will come to recognize Jesus as “the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Amen.

Father Timothy Gallagher


St. Bernadette Roman Catholic Church
101 South College Street
Cedartown, GA 30125
(770) 748-1517
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