- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 29, 2003

Below are excerpts from a homily the Rev. Dennis Kleinmann delivered to parishioners at St. Mary Catholic Church in Alexandria this weekend:

On March 23, while in Rome for the eighth-grade pilgrimage, we gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the beatification Mass of three nuns, one priest, and one layman, a father of 13. What these teenagers did not realize is that this Mass would last no less than 3 hours. … When asked what these students thought of this rather lengthy Mass, one boy responded, “What do you mean? It was only an hour.”

Such is the power and charisma of the holy father, Pope John Paul II, and the 263rd successor of St. Peter. The pope wields tremendous influence on many, not just 14-year-olds or Catholics …

Today, we celebrate the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul. It is rare that this day falls on a Sunday. It last did, however, in 1997. Because of its significance it “bumps” the Thirteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time and provides us an opportunity to look at these two outstanding men, these stalwarts of our faith, these apostles of Christ, these leaders of our church.

In many ways these two couldn’t be more different. St. Peter was a simple fisherman, uneducated, a poor Galilean. He was somewhat impetuous, who seemed to have “foot-in-mouth” disease, and who even denied knowing Jesus when it mattered most, not once, but three times. St. Paul, on the other hand, was highly educated, from a family of means, born a Roman citizen, a Pharisee, a Jewish leader. … He became a chief persecutor of the Christians, those who followed Christ.

It is very interesting, then, how God works. He called these individuals to be two of the first leaders of the church His son founded here on earth to continue His work. Jesus chose Peter, again not the brightest of the original 12 apostles, to be the “rock,” the one on whom He would build His Church, as we just heard in today’s Gospel. He gave him the “keys to the kingdom of heaven.”…

Paul undergoes a dramatic conversion on the road to Damascus, where the risen Lord appears to him and asks him why he is persecuting Him. Our Lord strikes him blind and orders him to go before Ananias, a devout Christian, to regain his sight. Jesus calls upon Paul to be His missionary to the Gentiles, the non-Jews. … He would suffer considerably, all for the sake of the name of Jesus, being beaten and even left for dead on more than one occasion. By the grace of God and with unbelievable courage and determination, he would win the hearts, minds and souls of many, writing beautiful letters to the places he visited to reinforce his missionary work he had done there.

Today we honor both Peter and Paul as perhaps the two greatest apostles the Church has ever known. Their relationship together is interesting in itself. They knew each other. I’m sure there was some concern on Peter’s part about Paul, this convert to the faith. Just how firm was his newfound faith; would he again turn on the Christians? We know Paul thought Peter was a bit weak at times and raised the issue of circumcision with him. Paul, nonetheless, respected Peter’s authority and sought out his ruling on this issue.

Despite their differences, their similarities were many. They were both men of God, devoted to the task at hand — spreading the message of Jesus Christ. … They were sinners but were still called by God to do His work.

We can and should learn from these great saints. We may never become pope. We may never be a great missionary traveling the world over to preach the word of God. We may never be called upon to literally die for Christ. But we are to be examples of Christ, as were Sts. Peter and Paul, to everyone we meet — our families, our friends, our co-workers and the people in our neighborhood. We must have the courage of Paul and the humility of Peter. In the face of where our world is going, if recent Supreme Court decisions are any indication, there is much to stand up for, there is much to be done.

If Peter and Paul had not taken seriously their mandate from God, who knows where we would be today? If we do not do our part, who knows where the future will go? We have every hope, of course, that things will work out, because God is with us, but He often uses us as His instruments here on earth, as He did Sts. Peter and Paul. … If we do God’s work not only will others be influenced, but we, too, will be better people. May St. Peter and St. Paul intercede for us, especially today on their feast day.

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