Scripture: 1st Reading: Acts12,1-11; Resp. Psalm: Ps34,2-9; 2nd Reading: 2Tim4,6-8,17-18; Gosp. Accl.: Mt16,18; Gospel: Mt16,13-19
Two great heroes of Christianity. Two men of unparalleled, passionate, total adhesion to Jesus. Two fiery witnesses to the truth of the gospel and the cross of victory. Two men of different temperaments but united in their passion for the truth. Two men of different social status in life but joined together by one common passion: Jesus Christ and his gospel.
St. Peter, the rusty Galilean fisherman whose life was turned upside down by the encounter he had with Jesus, the itinerant preacher. Here was a man who had a very solid Jew with a personal faith commitment to Yahweh before his encounter with the Lord. Here was a man who was noted for throwing all things in the balance. Here was a man who was known for his impetuosity.
Here was a man whose love for our Lord was perfect but whose understanding of our Lord's mission was imperfect even till the end of our Lord's earthly sojourn. Here was the clay that the Potter decided to use as the leader of His church. In a paradoxical way, this "clay" was called rock by the Lord to let Peter know clearly that He ultimately was the Decider; the strength came from Him; the program of life and the successes achieved depended solely on Him.
To this man's eternal privilege, our Lord made this promise: "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it." This is not all!
By far the greatest responsibility ever given to man was entrusted to this fisherman of Galilee and to the church the Lord founded and asked him to lead. "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."
Peter, the man who was married before his encounter with our Lord on the lake but who left everything to follow Him. Peter the man who confessed our Lord as the "Christ, the Son of the living God" and who was praised for this profession of faith in the divinity and mission of the Lord. Peter the man who stood by the Lord till the end but denied Him when the Lord most needed him.
Peter who however would become a great preacher of the gospel, a great witness to the faith and a martyr who would not permit himself to be crucified in an upright position but upside down. Peter who would thus die an agonizing death to prove his love for his Lord.
Paul, the other side of this beautiful coin! The great Paul, passionate persecutor and lover rolled into one. The man whose impressive life can never fail to fascinate even those who do not believe. Paul was that man who lived what he believed. Faith was life for him. For him, faith had to be defended with the last drop of blood. A man of deep personal convictions. An unrepentant loyalist who can die for friendship.
A most impressive preacher of the gospel who did not depend on human approval. A great soul who at the end of his life made those stupendous claim he made in today's second reading. A man who saw his death as a sacrifice like that of his Master. A man who fought the good fight, finished the race, kept the faith. A real man of God who did not exploit those he was called to preach to. The teacher and master of the gentiles, the one without whose efforts we would probably not have come to know Christ.
Two great men, one great mission, one clear vision, one undying wish, one passionate love: Jesus, Jesus, Jesus! We celebrate their faith, courage, perseverance, loyalty, commitment and zeal today. We reflect on their beautiful lives as examples for us to follow.
We salute their untiring zeal for the conversion of sinners. We ask their intercession in our own journey to the Father's house. Pray for us, o great Apostles, we stand in need of your help. Pray for the Church you helped to establish. May the powers of hell not prevail against it.
Let us pray: "O God, who on the solemnity of the Apostles Peter and Paul, give us the noble and holy joy of this day, grant, we pray, that your Church may in all things follow the teaching of those through whom she received the beginnings of right religion." Amen.
May the Living Word of God find a true dwelling place within our hearts and souls today and always. Happy celebration. Please attend Mass today. God bless you as you do so.