Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., gave the following homily June 29, 2023 during Mass for a vocations discernment event.
Sts. Peter and Paul: Ordinary men who changed the world through their vocation
It is a happy coincidence today, my brothers, that we gather to think about discerning God’s call on this solemn feast of Saints Peter and Paul, two ordinary, very different men who responded in extraordinary ways to God’s call to follow the Lord Jesus.
Both Jews, Peter was a fisherman; Paul was a student of Hebrew law, “a Pharisee born of Pharisees (Acts 23:6).” Peter heard his call directly from the Lord Jesus who was walking along the Sea of Galilee; Paul never physically met the Lord Jesus but heard his call through a vision, a supernatural revelation of the Lord Jesus on the road to Damascus. Together, through the grace of vocation, these men --- as different as their natures and backgrounds were --- served as the foundation of what would become the Catholic Church.
In and through Christ Jesus, they changed the world.
Peter, the head of the Apostles, was the leader and cornerstone upon which the Lord Jesus built his Church. Paul, the voice of the Apostles, wrote and preached the central message of the New Testament, interpreting the Gospels throughout the ancient world. These were very different men with very different gifts and graces, who had the same call, who followed and served the same Lord in the same mission. And we honor them on the same day, since they both suffered martyrdom for the same holy cause in the same city over 2,000 years ago.
Our readings today present parts of their story: the Acts of the Apostles tells of Peter’s imprisonment by Herod and his rescue by the angel of the Lord. Paul’s Letter to his friend and missionary companion Timothy speaks of the strength provided by God so that he could pour out his life like a libation, running and completing the race, holding fast to his faith in the Lord. And Matthew’s Gospel famously describes Peter’s confession of faith and his commission by the Lord Jesus to be that “rock” upon which he would build the Church, with Peter bearing its keys and binding the faithful.
My brothers, this Eucharistic feast we celebrate today, this great coincidence, has a lesson for you. Every one of us is called by God to do something important in our lives. For some, that call may be clearer than for others at this moment but do not doubt, not even for a minute, that God has a plan for you. Like Peter and Paul, ordinary men with different strengths and weaknesses, we are asked simply to be open to God’s call, to listen and to learn. It will come to you in prayer, in service, in the example or words of another, it may come in moments of silence, in discernment; it may come in days like the one we are sharing.
Do you think when Peter was casting his net with his brothers by the Sea of Galilee, he expected that a man walking along the seashore would change his life? Do you think when Paul was traveling on that road to Damascus, he expected a vision that would change his life? Do you think that either man expected to change the world?
I think we each know the answers to those questions. Perhaps we should ask them of ourselves. Do you expect that God is calling you? Think and pray about it.
Saints Peter and Paul, holy apostles of the Lord, pray for us.