by Marcus Yee
The journey from discipleship to being apostles can seem like such an intimidating yet desirable movement of our lives. There is also no doubt that this journey is one that is arduous, challenging, and life-long.
As we embark on this seemingly impossible walk towards God through our lives, I feel very called to remember that many men (and women, of course) have made this journey, proclaiming the very name of Jesus into our hearts and the heart of the world. These saints in heaven are cheering us on towards the finish line. With this, and with their feast days having passed last Friday (29th June), I’d like to center this sharing on the two fathers of the Church, St Peter and St Paul. I would also attempt to draw some parallels between our lives and theirs, so that we may be able to look at them not only as an unattainable fantasy but inspirations and guides towards a Christocentric life.
In the Gospel of Matthew, St Peter teaches us two very important lessons that we can use to embark on this journey. The first lesson was that Peter had faith in Jesus, it was he who proclaimed, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” It was Peter who truly believed that Jesus was the Christ, the anointed one, and that Jesus would be the redeemer of the world. Simon Peter was not the most intelligent or the brightest disciple, being a humble fisherman before dropping his nets to follow Jesus, but he had a simple yet single hearted faith in the Christ. From this we can learn that to embark on this journey, Jesus does not ask much of us, He does not ask us to be the best or the most successful, but to simply have faith in Him for it is Jesus who redeems us.
The second most important lesson to me personally was that Simon Peter faltered multiple times. Even being one of Jesus’s first disciples it was he who faltered in the worst ways possible, from denying Jesus three times to getting the worst scolding in history where Jesus scolds Peter with a “Get behind me, Satan!”. Yet Peter always turned back to Jesus becoming the first Pope in the Catholic Church.
I’d like to share further about the story of Jesus walking on water.
“Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” ~ Matthew 16: 21-31
In this almost comedic story, we can clearly see St Peter’s love for Jesus and how impulsive he can be in making so many rash decisions for the Lord. He dared to ask Jesus to call him out and to walk on water along Him. And Peter did! Peter walked a few good steps, but his mistake was to take his eyes off Jesus. Peter looked away to his side where he saw the rough waves and the winds and that was exactly when he began to sink. Like Peter, I always realise that I fall and sink whenever I take my eyes off of Jesus, I start looking inward to myself, thinking about what I want and what will give me the most pleasure. I begin to depend on myself and when I look around I do not see Jesus. I get scared at the journey, I cannot see Him close by, instead I notice the terribly long journey towards God ahead, I only see the seemingly impossible distance I have to cover to reach my Saviour. I lose hope and fail to realise that Jesus is right in front of me, calling me towards Him. And similarly, to Peter, I found that I only have to cry out the precious words, “Lord, save me!” and immediately Jesus reaches out His Hand and catches me. Jesus pulls me out of the waters, He says, “Why did you doubt?”.
The other man of great faith was St Paul the evangelist. After his encounter with Jesus, it turned out that Paul became one of the first men to realise the meaning of the resurrection of Christ and followed to spread the word with the knowledge God had blessed him with. We can truly see the two lessons we learnt from Peter reflected in Paul as well. Paul had the faith that Jesus was the resurrected Christ and like Peter, he was also far from perfect or worthy. In fact, he was even once a die-hard Pharisee where he was persecuting Christians with a fanatic passion.
Paul’s conversion was a miraculous one where he was thrown off his horse and Jesus spoke directly to him. Paul (then called Saul) fell to the ground where he met Jesus, he asked “Who are you, Lord?” And Jesus replied, “I am Jesus, and you are persecuting me. Get up now and go into the city, and you will be told what you have to do.”
As I reflect further on this few verses in the bible, I have always wondered, how Saul recognised that it was the Lord speaking to him. Even though he did not know that it was Jesus, Saul could immediately recognise the power of the voice speaking to him form the heavens, he could recognise the authority that this Lord had over him and thus Saul asks, “Who are you, Lord?” In reply, Jesus simply revealed Himself to Saul and guided him, He gave clear instructions to Saul and from there invited Saul to follow Him into the unknown, to have faith in the plans He had for Saul. Paul’s story really sits quite deeply in my heart as well, his story shows how one encounter with Jesus can turn one’s life around. It also shows that God does not look at what we have done, but what we are capable of. Paul was the most unlikely disciple of Jesus, yet he was chosen to be the messenger of God’s Word. Reviewing my own brokenness and unworthiness, I often forget that it is the Lord who chooses me to follow Him and not the other way around. I myself had once lived a life that had persecuted the faithful in many small ways, often questioning and judging those that would go to church every day, silently criticising their reasons for spending so much time in church and praying. However, Jesus chose to reveal Himself to me, showing me His goodness and the life that He brings. That He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. From that one moment, everything changed in my life. I now see the importance of prayer and the Church, I see the beauty in people’s commitment to Christ and the joy of evangelising.
Jesus promises His redemption for us through His death on the cross and these two men of God guide us Him. St Peter and St Paul remain so important and crucial to our faith even two thousand years after their death. I am constantly inspired by their stories and their fervor for God in the Acts of the Apostles as well as the Gospels. These books hold so much truth and through the lives of the saints I am called to journey towards a closer and deeper search for God in my life. I hope that through this short sharing and reflection I have managed to shine a little light on Saints Peter and Paul and on their lives. I pray, with St Peter and Paul, that we may all continuedly be inspired to live a life for God, knowing that He uses us even in our imperfections and that all we need in our lives is to look towards Jesus with a determined and unwavering gaze.