Sts Peter & Paul: Faithful Courage, Zealous Love
Amidst the important, amazing, and inspiring acts of faith that Sts Peter and Paul have done in their lives, two simple aspects of these saints are in fact more than enough for educators to draw inspiration from.
Sts Peter and Paul are arguably two of the most important and well-known saints of the Catholic Church. Their names are known around the world, respected by all denominations of Christianity, even some non-Christians, and remembered throughout history. Since the second century, there has been historical evidence of the early Church’s commemoration of these two saints on the same day, due to their complementary role in leading and establishing early Christianity.
As we continue the tradition of commemorating the two saints, let us take some time to look again at the examples of these saints, from whom two simple, yet special lessons for educators can be drawn. Amidst the incredible testimony of the lives of Sts Peter and Paul, amazing acts of faith, and other seemingly impossible achievements, it is in fact their simple characteristics that make them all the more inspiring.
It is sometimes common for feelings of inadequacy to seep into the hearts of educators, who are placed in charge of so many young lives and who hold such influence over the development of a human person. After all, if one is already cautious when putting ink to paper, then how much more does it entail when a teacher inscribes on the very hearts of children?
A reflection on the person St Peter was during his life however, would show that in fact, the more unworthy we may think we are, the stronger God can be in our human weakness. St Peter, who was called Simon previously, was a humble fisherman who did not have any skills or knowledge one would expect in a preacher or a great leader. And yet, this was the man Jesus chose to lead the Catholic Church, and St Peter had not only done so with tremendous faith, but with amazing courage as well.
St Peter had not been the most perfect preacher, the most perfect leader, or even the most perfect believer. There were many times in the gospels where we see St Peter’s human weakness. Such as when he was willing to accept Jesus’ doctrine of forgiveness, but suggests a limit of seven times. He walks on the water in faith, but sinks in doubt. He swears at the Last Supper that he will never deny Jesus, and then swears to a servant maid that he has never known the man.
But despite all these events that would have made any human person deem St Peter as an inadequate leader, St Peter was still perfect for the job in the eyes of Jesus, as He affirms, “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it” (Matt 16:18).
Courage in Christ
When the Holy Spirit washed over the apostles on Pentecost and a large crowd was attracted by the commotion, it was St Peter who stood up, preached, and explained that this was the work of the Holy Spirit. Right there on that very day, St Peter converted thousands.
In the Acts of the Apostles subsequently, St Peter boldly led the apostles to foreign lands to preach and heal the sick in the name of Jesus. Even after being captured, beaten, and threatened by the Pharisees to stop their ministry, St Peter and the apostles “went on ceaselessly teaching and proclaiming the good news of Christ Jesus” (Acts 5:42).
The secret to St Peter’s courage can be traced back to when Jesus questions him three times, “Do you love me?” And St Peter, exasperated and at his wit’s end, simply affirms, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.”
For educators, it is tempting sometimes to judge ourselves by our human standards as inadequate for our role, or to think that we may be too imperfect. But God surely judges us by better standards, and He has considered us worthy to be called as teachers. If we only love God the same simple way St Peter did, then we can have courage in the faith that God can work miracles with us, no matter how inadequate we may think we are.
The science of Jesus
As we reflect on how St Peter’s simple love for Jesus enabled God to work such miracles through him, another question comes to mind; how then can I come to love Jesus in the same way? This is where the life of St Paul sheds more light for us, especially as educators.
“Why is Jesus, the adorable, eternal and incarnate Wisdom loved so little if not because he is either too little known or not known at all? Hardly anyone studies the supreme science of Jesus, as did St. Paul,” St Louis de Montfort describes in his book, The Love of Eternal Wisdom.
St Paul was truly a scientist when it came to studying the teachings and revelations of Jesus. A majority of the New Testament has been attributed to the authorship of St Paul, many of which are fundamental teachings of the Church and continue to provide direction for us today.
Coupling the fact that St Paul had such divine understanding of Jesus, with the amount of zealous love he displayed during his service to God, one can easily draw a relation between a love for Jesus, and a knowledge for Him. This can be clearly seen in the many letters St Paul writes, when he tries to explain what is right or wrong according to Jesus’ teachings, and in the many occasions he suffers for proclaiming Jesus as the son of God.
Knowledge as a tool
St Paul not only studied the science of Jesus to increase his love for God, but also used this knowledge to better evangelise. St Paul, who had been one of the most zealous persecutors of Christianity before his conversion, was certainly learned in the Jewish customs and teachings. He had even described himself as a Pharisee in his letter to the Philippians, “Circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee” (Phi 3:5).
With this knowledge, St Paul had a particular style of spreading the Good News by appealing to the intellect of those listening. In chapter 13 of the Acts of the Apostles for example, St Paul was preaching to a crowd of Gentiles and explained the Old Testament, everything from Israel in the desert, to King David, the prophet Samuel, up to John the Baptist. St Peter used all these examples and explained how each of them were in fact referring to Jesus, who was crucified and raised from the dead.
As educators then, let us never stop learning and studying the most noble and useful of all sciences, just as St Paul had done. This not only helps us to better respond to our call to evangelise, but it also certainly brings us to a deeper love for God.