Monday, June 29, 2009

I Will Give You The Keys Of The Kingdom of Heaven

It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them. He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword. When he saw that this pleased the Jews, he proceeded to seize Peter also. This happened during the Feast of Unleavened Bread. 4After arresting him, he put him in prison, handing him over to be guarded by four squads of four soldiers each. Herod intended to bring him out for public trial after the Passover.

So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.

The night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance. Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. "Quick, get up!" he said, and the chains fell off Peter's wrists.

Then the angel said to him, "Put on your clothes and sandals." And Peter did so. "Wrap your cloak around you and follow me," the angel told him. 9Peter followed him out of the prison, but he had no idea that what the angel was doing was really happening; he thought he was seeing a vision. They passed the first and second guards and came to the iron gate leading to the city. It opened for them by itself, and they went through it. When they had walked the length of one street, suddenly the angel left him.

Then Peter came to himself and said: "Now I know without a doubt that the Lord sent his angel and rescued me from Herod's clutches and from everything the Jewish people were anticipating."
Acts 12:1-11

For I am already being poured out as a libation, and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the lion's mouth. 18The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory forever and ever. Amen.
2 Timothy 4:6-8, 17-18

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say the Son of Man is?"

They replied, "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets."

"But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?"

Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."

Jesus replied, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hadeswill not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.
Matthew 16:13-19

+++ +++ +++ +++

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of Saint Peter and Saint Paul. Both of these apostles died at Rome during the persecution of the Emperor Nero (AD 64-48). Peter, the first successor of Jesus himself as head of the church, established Rome as the center of church governance, since it was the capital of the Roman Empire. Paul arrived in Rome at the end of his missionary journeys, after being arrested and taken there as a prisoner.

Today’s gospel narrates the choice of Peter by Jesus. Jesus asks his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” They respond, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, or Jeremiah, or another of the prophets.” But then he asks the key question: “Who do you say that I am?” It is Simon Peter who answers, with strong affirmation: “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God”. The Greek title, Christ, and the Hebrew title, Messiah, are identical in meaning. Both words literally mean “the anointed one”.

The Messiah is the anointed King who will save the Jews from their oppressors. Before Jesus rose from the dead, this expression was taken to signify that the Messiah would be a king who would expel the Romans from the land given to the Jews by God himself.

For an entire millennium, since the time of King David, the Jewish people had been waiting prayerfully for a savior. But when he came, Jesus was not recognized as the Messiah, because most of the Jews were looking for a warrior king, not a preacher and miracle worker. They wanted to be freed from the yoke of Rome, not from the yoke of sin.

When Simon acknowledged Jesus as the one sent by God, he proclaimed the Jesus was the Messiah. Then Jesus changed his name from Simon to Peter, which in Greek means “solid rock”. Jesus pledged to establish his kingdom – his Church – on the “rock” (of Peter) and gave him the power to accomplish this feat:: “I will give you the keys of the Kingdom.”

When Simon recognized Jesus as the one sent from God, he proclaimed that Jesus was the Messiah. At that moment, Jesus changed his name from Simon to Peter, which in Greek means “solid rock”. At the same time, Jesus gave Peter the authority and power to establish the Church on a sure and solid foundation: I give you the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven.”

Today’s readings depict the trials Peter and Paul suffered to bear witness to the Lord. Let us reflect on our own lives, and see that we are also having hard times, and dealing with difficult circumstances. As we celebrate the solemnity of the Church’s greatest Apostles, we need to trust in the Lord’s presence, and hope for the salvation he brings.

One final note: It is important that we recognize our pope as the successor to Saint Peter, who was commissioned by Christ Jesus to lead the Church, “Simon, son of Jonah” was blessed by Jesus because he recognized the divine presence in the teacher and miracle worker from Nazareth.

My we also be open to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, so that we might live an faithful life in union with the successor of Peter and the whole church.

No comments: