Tuesday, June 29, 2010

I Will Give You The Keys Of The Kingdom Of Heaven.

Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, Apostles
Mass during the Day
Reading I
Acts 12:1-11
In those days, King Herod laid hands upon
some members of the Church to harm them.
He had James, the brother of John, killed by the sword,
and when he saw that this was pleasing to the Jews
he proceeded to arrest Peter also.
–It was the feast of Unleavened Bread.–
He had him taken into custody and put in prison
under the guard of four squads of four soldiers each.
He intended to bring him before the people after Passover.
Peter thus was being kept in prison,
but prayer by the Church was fervently being made
to God on his behalf.

On the very night before Herod was to bring him to trial,
Peter, secured by double chains,
was sleeping between two soldiers,
while outside the door guards kept watch on the prison.
Suddenly the angel of the Lord stood by him
and a light shone in the cell.
He tapped Peter on the side and awakened him, saying,
“Get up quickly.”
The chains fell from his wrists.
The angel said to him,
“Put on your belt and your sandals.”
He did so.
Then he said to him,
“Put on your cloak and follow me.”
So he followed him out,
not realizing that what was happening
through the angel was real;
he thought he was seeing a vision.
They passed the first guard, then the second,
and came to the iron gate leading out to the city,
which opened for them by itself.
They emerged and made their way down an alley,
and suddenly the angel left him.
Then Peter recovered his senses and said,
“Now I know for certain
that the Lord sent his angel
and rescued me from the hand of Herod
and from all that the Jewish people had been expecting.”
+++    +++    +++    +++
Psalm  34
The angel of the Lord will rescue those who fear him.
I will bless the LORD at all times;
his praise shall be ever in my mouth.
Let my soul glory in the LORD;
the lowly will hear me and be glad.
The angel of the Lord will rescue those who fear him.
Glorify the LORD with me,
let us together extol his name.
I sought the LORD, and he answered me
and delivered me from all my fears.
The angel of the Lord will rescue those who fear him.
Look to him that you may be radiant with joy,
and your faces may not blush with shame.
When the poor one called out, the LORD heard,
and from all his distress he saved him.
The angel of the Lord will rescue those who fear him.
The angel of the LORD encamps
around those who fear him, and delivers them.
Taste and see how good the LORD is;
blessed the man who takes refuge in him.
The angel of the Lord will rescue those who fear him.
+++    +++    +++    +++
Reading II
2 Timothy 4:6-8, 17-18
I, Paul, am already being poured out like a libation,
and the time of my departure is at hand.
I have competed well; I have finished the race;
I have kept the faith.
From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me,
which the Lord, the just judge,
will award to me on that day, and not only to me,
but to all who have longed for his appearance.

The Lord stood by me and gave me strength,
so that through me
the proclamation might be completed
and all the Gentiles might hear it.
And I was rescued from the lion’s mouth.
The Lord will rescue me from every evil threat
and will bring me safe to his heavenly Kingdom.
To him be glory forever and ever. Amen.
Matthew 16:13-19
When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi
he asked his disciples,
“Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah,
still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Simon Peter said in reply,
“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus said to him in reply,
“Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah.
For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you,
but my heavenly Father.
And so I say to you, you are Peter,
and upon this rock I will build my Church,
and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.
I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of heaven.
Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven;
and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
We celebrate today the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul. The readings are fairly sober in that they speak of events that relate to both disciples’ end of life experiences.

In the first, from Acts, St. Peter is in prison under unusually heavy guard and secured by chains when he is miraculously freed from his chains and led out to freedom. And in his second letter to Timothy, Paul reflects on his long life of service to the early churches as “being poured out like a libation.” He has “fought the good fight” and he has “kept the faith” and he now looks forward to the “crown” that awaits him with the Lord.

Both readings speak of the apostles being rescued by the Lord. Both, too, are the founders of the early church in Rome due primarily to the reality of their experiencing themselves as one with Christ by their service of others. Indeed Christ is the very center and purpose of their lives devoted to bringing the gospel to the world.

The Christ who rescues them is the same Christ whom they followed as a disciple. In today’s gospel reading, Jesus himself is approaching his own cruel death as he nears Jerusalem and he asked his friends/companions/disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” Peter’s answer, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God” is praised by Jesus not only as the “correct” answer, but that the answer itself comes to Peter as God’s own revelation. Jesus promises that Peter will be the rock on which Jesus’ church will be built.

As we consider the character of both these early founders of our church we are impressed by the fact that they as individual people they are not the source of the goodness that flowed from and through them; that strength and goodness was God’s gift they would experience throughout the course of their magnificent service to others. Both had their huge flaws: Peter was impetuous, strong-willed, and often obtuse to the message that Jesus was trying to give him; Paul started off as a persecutor of the church. Seemingly not a very auspicious beginning for them!

Yet, each of them was open to being “rescued” by Jesus and each recognized that he was privileged to work side-by-side with Christ. They both, tradition tells us, were martyrs for Christ and as such models for our own privileged witnessing as members of the Risen Body of Christ.

What do their lives say to us, today? That we, too, are called by Jesus into service and that our service, however small and meager it appears to us, is the gift of God as well as an ongoing invitation to us to follow Jesus as his disciples today in our difficult circumstances. Just like Peter and Paul, we are witnesses for Christ to those we come in contact with. Our “witnessing” probably will not lead to our cruel martyrdom as Peter and Paul’s (and Jesus’), but we too can “pour ourselves out” as Jesus (and Peter and Paul) did. We can, like them “fight the good fight” and, most importantly, “keep the faith.”

Tom Shanahan, S.J.
Daily Reflection
Creighton University's Online Ministries

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