If some is described as “rock solid”, we know immediately the person is trustworthy, dependable, and faithful. If we announce a structure is “rocky steady”, we know that it will not come crashing down. If we find the bread “rock hard”, we know it is too stale to use for a sandwich. A “rock” is hard, it is there. Short of blasting or chiseling, it cannot be reshaped or changed without a lot of effort. It takes river centuries to smooth rock into river stones.
Jesus capitalized on the common knowledge to describe Peter, after Peter makes his Profession of Faith. “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
Who am I, Jesus asks? This question put to his disciples long ago, remains a question for all time to all this disciples. The faithful rock upon which the Church is built, must know who Jesus is. The faithful disciple must listen to what he teaches, and guard against anything that might try to prevail against it.
Peter and Paul’s faithful discipleship rests on the “rock” of their knowing Jesus. And not just relying on being name droppers, of the Holy Name of Jesus. They came to know him as one who calls them by name. Peter, soon you will be fishers of men! And Paul, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me! They came to know his teaching and his commission to go out to all nations and proclaim good news. They came to know him as the Messiah, the one who has come into the world, the one who has been raised and is alive! And they came to know firsthand, the power of forgiveness, Peter in his denial and Paul by his denial and persecution of the early church.
The power of forgiveness in their own personal lives by Jesus changed not only their lives, but brought about a firm “rock” foundation upon which to build the Church.
The Feast of the two great Apostles, Peter and Paul, is the story of faithful proclamation, it is a story of courageous mission, but most especially it is the story of unconditional love these two men experienced in Jesus. They were loved by the Lord despite the faults and failings, and despite their great sins.
These two men came to understand the power of Jesus, not because he could work miracles, or draw a crowd of thousands, but because he loved them to the end. He kept his promise to them, that they would never be left orphaned but always sustained by the power of the one who loved them!
The story of Peter and Paul, both Rock and Preacher, is not so much a story about two powerful men, but a story of men who found love and acceptance in spite of themselves.
“God so loved the world that he gave his only Son so that whoever might believe in him might have life.” The love of God for his people sent Jesus into the world. The love of Jesus for his disciples, changed the ones he loved and in turn that love into a great river that spilled over into the world, through rock solid witnesses (Martyr—which means witness) to become Church, the ‘living body of Christ.’
The love story continues with the rock of our faith, again found in the power of forgiveness. This is why the Church is so big on forgiveness, we proclaim the mercy of God, in Christ Jesus, who offers us salvation (healing for the soul) despite our sinfulness and unworthiness.
The establishment of the Church and our share in Christ’s victory over sin and death rest on two factors. We must know Jesus and have a relationship that can and does stand the test of time and bruised relationship. And we must participate in the mission of proclaiming his love and mercy wherever we go. This is to be Church which was built upon the “rock” of Peter’s faithfulness and Paul’s proclamation.
Why celebrate feasts of two long ago Saints? Because their story is our story! The invitation to know the Lord, to experience his faithfulness and salvation is the story of every disciple who has ever lived and the proclamation of that truth is our privilege, our joy, our hope and our salvation. Amen!