Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul - homily
Were the saints always saints? Did they come out of their mother’s womb with “St.” in front of their name? No. In fact, some of the greatest saints were great sinners. St. Mary Magdelene was a “sinful woman” who became the first witness to the Resurrection. St. Augustine was a pagan and playboy – with the famous quote, “Lord, give me chastity but not right now!” - who became one of the greatest theologians in the history of the Church. All saints had a major transformation – a conversion - at some point in their lives. St. Francis of Assisi grew up in a wealthy family and gave up all of his riches to live radical poverty for the sake of the Gospel. The saints are ordinary men and women who lived extraordinary lives; they lived heroic virtue.
The saints we celebrate today - Peter and Paul, Apostles – are no different. St. Peter was as ordinary as they come. He was a fisherman who had moments in the Gospel with which we can all identify. He would even deny Jesus three times. And yet, Jesus gave this ordinary and sinful man the keys to the Kingdom and made him the leader of his Church. St. Paul was vehemently anti-Christian; he participated in the persecution of Christians. He became one of the greatest Christian missionaries of all time.
How do saints become saints? Basically, they see the light. I know it’s a cliché, but it makes the point. The word “light” is significant because it is the sign of God’s presence in the Bible. In Acts 9:3, St. Paul literally saw a great light in the sky on his way to killing Christians one day. The light was Christ. “Oops” about Jesus and Christians, Paul probably thought to himself. He realized that Jesus is the Son of God and had an immediate change of heart. In Acts 12:7, a light shone in the prison cell of St. Peter. Peter realized that God was with him. It confirmed that everything he believed about God and faith in Christ was true.
This is what happens with the saints – they see the light that God does exist. They realize that He is real. They realize that the story of Jesus is real. They realize that Christ is with them. This changes the human heart. And, it’s not just a realization of faith, but also of action. When St. Paul had his epiphany, he simultaneously realized his mission. In other words, at the same moment he received revelation about Christ, he received his calling to proclaim Christ. Saints not only see the light, they live the light.
How do we become saints? It’s very simple: the Eucharist. Every saint has made the Eucharist the center of his or her life. If we center our lives on the Eucharist, we will become saints. We may never have “St.” in front of our name, but we will live heroic lives. The power and grace of the Eucharist is what allows saints to live extraordinary and heroic lives. Mother Teresa once said that she would have only lasted a week serving the poorest of the poor if she didn’t receive the Eucharist every day at Mass. The Eucharist is what leads the saints to do extraordinary things.
In a few minutes, we will see the Eucharist. We will see the light and know that God is present among us. We will not only see the light, we will receive it. May the grace of this sacrament help us to live extraordinary lives. May it help us to live heroic forgiveness, kindness, charity, peace, and joy. May it help us to join St. Peter, St. Paul, and all the saints in the Kingdom of Heaven forever.