29th JUNE 2021

The Solemnity of Saint Peter and Saint Paul | St. Peter's Church

TUESDAY, THIRTEENTH WEEK IN ORDINARY TIME

Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, Apostles

 

Acts 12:1-11;              Ps 34:2-9;                   2 Tim 4:6-8,17-18;                 Mt 16:13-1


      

TWO GREAT APOSTLES OF THE CHURCH

Today, we celebrate the solemnity of the two great apostles of the Church, Peter and Paul. One denied Christ while the other persecuted the Church, but once they encountered the risen Lord, they gave up their past life and embraced him, and in him found new life. Both worked tirelessly to spread the gospel to all nations, proving their great love for Christ by dying as martyrs for the faith.

Today’s gospel presents the granting of the keys of the kingdom of heaven to Peter by Jesus. First, the Lord changed the apostle’s name. He was no longer to be called Simon, but Peter, because, as the name signifies, he was to be the rock upon which Christ would build his Church. Christ compares Peter to a rock because he must have the strength of faith fit to be the foundation of his Church. Thus, the image of rock illustrates the primacy of Peter and his successors, the popes of the Roman Catholic Church.

Peter and all the popes enjoy primacy because they govern the Roman Catholic Church which has four essential characteristics of its identity that encompass the mind of Christ for it – one, holy, catholic and apostolic. It is indeed the “one” Church, united under its sole founder and head, Christ the Lord, who chose Peter to represent him after he proclaimed his faith; “You are the Christ, the son of the living God.” St Ambrose would say, “Where Peter is, there is the Church.” This means that wherever we find the pope, Peter’s successor, there is the Church. This sense of belonging to the Church should fill us with great joy. Today’s feast in honour of these two great apostles should inspire in us great joy and gratitude to God for calling us to be part of the Church established by his son and sanctified by his Holy Spirit.

We are all familiar with Paul, formerly referred to, before and in the early days of his conversion, as Saul, a zealous Jew, who approved of the martyrdom of Stephen and then went on to relentlessly persecute the fledgeling Church until, when on the road to Damascus, he fell off his horse, met the risen Lord, and was led, physically blinded and spiritually confused into the very city he intended to enter with power and authority. Once he regained his sight, of body and spirit, and realized that it was the Lord that he was persecuting, he was never the same again. For him, all that was true, valuable and necessary in life, was the person of Jesus Christ. “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20).

Paul gave himself totally to the spread of the gospel. He was unconcerned about himself and suffered all kinds of trials and sufferings: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or hunger, or nakedness, or danger, or the sword?” (Rom 8:5). Paul knew that he was the instrument chosen by God to bring the gospel to the gentiles; “God… called me by his grace to reveal his son in me that I might preach him among the Gentiles” (Gal 1:15-16). Peter and Paul lived not for themselves, but for Jesus Christ. Both were sinners chosen by the Lord for very special missions – Peter, to be the first pope and the rock upon which the Church was to be built; Paul, to be the apostle to the gentiles. Both these apostles knew that Jesus spared nothing in his love for them and for all men, and they also felt compelled to give themselves for their brethren in the Church. Both were martyrs for the faith, and both spoke boldly for Christ as they knew that they had to obey God rather than men. We should imitate these holy apostles in their zeal for the faith, and then we will rejoice with them, considering the sufferings of this life as nothing in comparison to the great reward promised to those who love and serve God.


Response: From all my terrors he set me free.


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