Feast Day: June 29th | Peter: Rock, Prince of Apostles, First Pope, Bishop of Rome, Martyr; Paul: Saul, Convert, Apostle to the Gentiles, Teacher, Writer, Martyr| Imagery: Peter: Keys, Rock, Fisherman, Upside-Down Cross, Papal Tiara/Mitre, Rooster, Attired in Gold [symbolizing the divine] and Blue [symbolizing the human]; Paul: Sword [of the Spirit], Scroll or Book [of the missionary], Fire [of Spirit], Quill [of Writer], Broken Chains [of Imprisoned]
“He [Solomon] set up the pillars at the vestibule of the temple. He set up the pillar on the south and called its name Jachin, and he set up the pillar on the north and called its name Boaz. And on the tops of the pillars was lily-work. Thus the work of the pillars was finished.” [1 Kings 7:21-22]
The Temple of Solomon faced towards the East, thus of these most prominent pillars of the Lord’s Temple, the one entitled “Jachin” was to the right-hand of the altar, and “Boaz” was to the left-hand. Get ready to have your mind blown: “Jachin” literally means “the Lord will establish” [yakîn/יָכִין] whereas “Boaz”, though probably also etymologically recalling strength and stability, is the name of the grandfather of David who married Ruth, one of several pivotal gentiles included in the lineage of Our Lord. To the right is the one grounded, af-firmed, set-up, founded by the Lord; to the left, the one from the gentiles, outside of the ordinary, surprising, yet also chosen by God and essential to His plan.
When Christ constructed His Church, he also chose two pillars, and the same characteristics apply to them: to the right, St. Peter, “you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” St. Peter, the one established, chosen, dedicated, grounded on Christ. He is the one at the Lord’s right hand, prince of the Apostles, chief of the shepherds, first to enter the empty tomb, first to evangelize, holder of the keys, key-stone of the Church … yet he is also the egotistical Simon who rejects the cross; sinful, arrogant, weak, sleeping, denying, forgetful. The temptation of the one who is chosen and established is to pridefully think they earned it themselves.
On the left is St. Paul, “‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ And I said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.’” [Acts 26:13-16] This is Saul, persecutor of the Church, the Roman citizen, the outsider, the pharisee, the tent-maker, the inarticulate, afflicted by a thorn in the flesh, the one who got himself on trial, stoned, shipwrecked, beaten, imprisoned, chief of sinners, least of the apostles … yet this is also St. Paul, he the hand-picked convert, the greatest missionary, first theologian, founder of countless churches, author of much of the New Testament, preacher to the Gentiles, the one who carries the sword of the Word and Spirit of God.
I would like to invite you to meditate on two scenes today, the first is one that St. Paul describes in Galatians 2: “But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, ‘If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?” [Galatians 2:11-14] Here the two pillars, right and left, established and outsider, fall to their respective weaknesses, their vices, their particular faults. Consider where within yourself you can fall into self-reliance and pride, and where you fall into shaming and accusation. Neither are from the Lord, but they are the temptations, respectively, of the “insider” and the “outsider”, and we all have our own places/situations where we can fall to those faults ourselves.
But there is another scene with these two Apostles beloved by the Church that I invite you to contemplate: Peter, in the impoverished Jewish quarter of Rome, and Paul, brought to the Eternal City in chains, are both sentenced to death because they are proclaiming Christ. On the way to Peter accepting the cross, and Paul kneeling before the sword, they embraced! The insider and the outsider, the right pillar and the left pillar, the rock and the radical, he who carries the keys and he who carries the sword; apostle to apostle, brother to brother; both chosen by Christ, both dedicated to Christ, both united in Christ. Here, at the end, the best of these two apostles’ calls, characters, and charisms, have been completely united in Christ, and the Church will rest upon them down through all its ages.
– Fr. Dominic often gets frustrated with different parts of his personality, perceived weaknesses, faults, etc. What he often forgets to do is to bring those things to Christ, letting the Lord purify and unite those different parts of myself into something holy, good, and necessary for His particular call for me. The Lord is working on that in all of us, and in all of His Church.