29 Jun - Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, apostles

We celebrate the feast of the princes of the apostles, from whom we derive our Christian faith. The Lord stood by them and gave them power, so that through them the whole message might be proclaimed for all the world to hear.

- the Weekday Missal

In case you haven’t heard, Pope Benedict XVI, successor of Peter, has declared the year June 2008 - June 2009 the year of St. Paul in celebration of the Apostle’s 2,000th birth anniversary.

Acts of the Apostles 12:1-11

King Herod started persecuting certain members of the Church. He beheaded James the brother of John, and when he saw that this pleased the Jews he decided to arrest Peter as well. This was during the days of Unleavened Bread, and he put Peter in prison, assigning four squads of four solders each to guard him in turns. Herod meant to try Peter in public after the end of Passover week. All the time Peter was under guard the Church prayed to God for him unremittingly.

On the night before Herod was to try him, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, fastened with double chains, while guards kept watch at the main entrance to the prison. Then suddenly the angel of the Lord stood there, and the cell was filled with light. He tapped Peter on the side and woke him. “get up!” he said, “Hurry!” - and the chains fell from his hands. The angel then said, “Put on your belt and sandals.” After he had done this, the angel next said, “Wrap your cloak round you and follow me.” Peter followed him, but had no idea that what the angel did was all happening in reality; he thought he was seeing a vision. They passed through two guard posts one after the other, and reached the iron gate leading to the city. This opened of its own accord; they went through it and had walked the whole length of one street when suddenly the angel left him. It was only then that Peter came to himself. “Now I know that it is all true,” he said. “The Lord really did send his angel and has saved me from Herod and from all that the Jewish people were so certain would happen to me.”

2 Timothy 4:6-8, 17-18

My life is already being poured away as a libation, and the time has come for me to be gone. I have fought the good fight to the end; I have run the race to the finish; I have kept the faith; all there is to come now is the crown of righteousness reserved for me, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give to me on that Day; and not only to me but to all those who have long for his Appearing.

The Lord stood by me and gave me power, so that through me the whole message might be proclaimed for all the pagans to hear; and so I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from all evil attempts on me, and bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Matthew 16:13-19

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi he put this question to his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say he is John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” “But you,” he said, “who do you say I am?” Then Simon Peter spoke up, “You are the Christ,” he said, “the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “Simon son of Jonah, you are a happy man! Because it was not flesh and blood that revealed this to you but my Father in heaven. So I now say to you: You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church. And the gates of the underworld can never hold out against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven: whatever you bind on earth shall be considered bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth shall be considered loosed in heaven.”

Today we celebrate two very important persons in the history of the Church. In the gospel reading, we see that Jesus built his Church on Peter. However, Jesus didn’t just intend to build a Church that lasts only for Peter’s generation; the Church founded by Jesus is meant to last till the end of time. Therefore, the keys to the kingdom of heaven belong not only to Peter, but to all who succeed him. In other words, the person who now holds the keys to the kingdom of heaven in the same capacity that Peter held them, would be Pope Benedict XVI, the 264th successor of Peter.

Also in the gospel reading, we see that Peter proclaimed and acknowledged that Jesus is the Christ. Did this ensure Peter’s salvation? We look to the second reading for the answer. We see that it is not only enough to proclaim and acknowledge Jesus as the Christ, but it is equally important to “run the race to the finish” all the while keeping the faith, the faith that has been given by Jesus to his Church through Peter.

Paul tells Timothy in his first letter to “wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience”, explaining that “by rejecting conscience, certain persons have made shipwreck of their faith”. To live, grow and persevere in the faith until the end we must nourish it with the word of God (read and reflect on scripture); we must beg the Lord to increase our faith (pray); it must be “working through charity” (do good works), abounding in hope, and rooted in the faith of the Church. Indeed, if we are to be filled with faith that provides salvation, we need be faithful to the Church established by Christ on Peter.

God our Father, today you give us the joy of celebrating the feast of the apostles Peter and Paul. Through them your Church first received the faith. Keep us true to their teaching, that we will remain true to the faith of the apostles. Amen.

Give Thanks to the Lord for: The Church which preserves the faith of the apostles so that the whole message may be proclaimed for all to hear.

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