Today is the Feast of St. Peter and St. Paul. Peter was a fisherman who was called as one of the twelve apostles and accompanied Jesus during His entire ministry (Matthew 4:18-22; 10:1-2). He confessed that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God and Jesus recognized the role of leadership that he would have in the Church (Matthew 16:13-20). However, he also rebuked Jesus when our Lord predicted His passion (Matthew 16:21-23) and denied Jesus three times (Matthew 26:69-75). Forgiven by our Lord and commissioned again to care for the flock (John 21:15-19) he was an important leader in the early Church (Acts 2) and God used him to indicate that the Gentiles were being received as part of the people of God (Acts 10). He wrote two letters that are included in the New Testament. According to Church tradition, he died a martyr when was crucified upside down in Rome.
Paul, originally named Saul, was a zealous Pharisee who persecuted the Church (Philippians 3:4-6; Galatians 1:13-16; Acts 9:1-2). The risen Lord appeared to him on the road to Damascus and called him to be an apostle who would proclaim the Gospel to the Gentiles (Acts 9:3-18). Paul engaged in three missionary journeys to Asia Minor and Greece (Acts 13-14, 16-18, 18-21). While in Jerusalem he was arrested and then imprisoned by the Romans at Caesarea (Acts 22-26). As a Roman citizen, he appealed to Caesar and at the end of the Book of Acts he is in Rome under house arrest waiting for his case to be heard (Acts 28:30-31). Paul wrote thirteen letters that are included in the New Testament. We have little information about the chronology of the end of Paul’s life (it may be that he was released from Rome and then was later arrested again after doing further missionary work). According to Church tradition, he died a martyr when he was beheaded in Rome
But some men came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” And after Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and debate with them, Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and the elders about this question. So, being sent on their way by the church, they passed through both Phoenicia and Samaria, describing in detail the conversion of the Gentiles, and brought great joy to all the brothers. When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and the elders, and they declared all that God had done with them. But some believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees rose up and said, “It is necessary to circumcise them and to order them to keep the law of Moses.”
Merciful and eternal God, your holy apostles Peter and Paul received grace and strength to lay down their lives for the sake of your Son. Strengthen us by your Holy Spirit that we may confess your truth and at all times be ready to lay down our lives for him who laid down his life for us, even Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.