Solemnity of Saints Peter & Paul, Apostles – Yr.A.
Commentary Theme for this Sunday:
“Peter and Paul are Witnesses to the Gospel”!
Today we celebrate the solemnity of two great apostles. Peter was chosen by the Lord to be the leader of the Church and was given the task to preach the Gospel especially among the Jewish communities.
Paul had become the chosen instrument of God to bring the ‘Good News’ to the whole world.
In the process of conversion, both apostles experienced the gratuitous compassion and forgiveness of the Lord. They are our ancestors in the faith, the ones who have handed over the message of ‘Life’.
The believer is not in for an easy life, he will be persecuted, but as we read in the first reading, the Lord always stands by his disciple.
Guide to ‘Live’ the Sunday Liturgy:
It is recommended that the actual readings are first studied and then meditated upon with a prayer to the Holy Spirit to grant you the gift of ‘wisdom’ to understand the meaning of the messages of Love, Forgiveness and the Offer of Salvation that the Lord has for each one of us in the Holy Bible.
If at all possible, share this Bible Reflection time with a family member, a friend or someone you wish to bring to Christ. Jesus said in Mt. 18:20 – “For where two or three come together in my name, I am there with them.”
These commentaries, which have been extracted and summarized for our meditation are from the published works of priests, bishops and Catholic theologians who have by their Divine inspiration become acclaimed scholars of the Scriptures and reflect the Church’s understanding of the readings.
These commentaries are not meant to replace the Sunday Homily at Holy Mass but are provided as an additional guide to assist and further enhance our understanding of the Sunday Liturgical Readings.
‘Daily Reflections’ and a ‘Prayer’ are included to enable us to ‘Live the Word’ during the week following the Sunday Mass. With faith and perseverance, we will start to put into practice the Lord’s teachings; we will begin to understand the meaning of gratuitous love, God’s will and our life’s true purpose. Through His Word we will follow the Light to help fulfill the mission that has been given to each one of us by our Creator. Meditations and Prayer on the Reflections should be done daily – first thing in the morning and last thing at night.
It may be necessary to pray and to repeat the study of the Bible Readings and Commentaries more than once, or even on a daily basis, if you feel that you have not yet grasped the Lord’s special message for you.
“In the Old Testament the ‘New’ is hidden.
In the New Testament the ‘Old’ is laid open”.
King Herod Agrippa was the jocular friend of the Emperor Caligola who had appointed him to succeed his grandfather, Herod the Great. He made a show of keeping the laws and the traditions. In order to find acceptance with the extremists, he persecuted the Christians because they did not keep the Jewish laws and they befriended the pagans. He ordered the killing of James the son of Zebedee, and had Peter thrown in jail because – as all by now knew – he had become unclean when he entered the house of the pagan Cornelius. Peter’s execution had been set for the week after the feast of the Unleavened Bread, when Jerusalem would be filled with devout and law-abiding Jewish pilgrims. It was to be an effective and popular ‘show of force’.
Peter was asleep. The Christian community was praying “fervently” on his behalf. In the darkness of night the Lord intervenes. Just when all hope for Peter had been lost the Lord intervenes to save him. Who is this mysterious being, in human form, who enters and lightens up the cell where Peter lies in chains? The Holy Scriptures mentions “the angel of the Lord” quite often, who – and this may sound strange to those who are not accustomed to biblical language – does not appear to be distinct from God himself and is in fact identified with God. We must interpret these “apparitions” carefully. Visions, voices from heaven, the intervention of supernatural beings are often not a human way of describing and drawing our attention to a real but ineffable event. The description of the liberation of Peter is founded on something that really happened, but the circumstances are difficult to establish.
The writer is using a well-known proven expression from the Old Testament to explain how the Lord intervened to save his servant. The details are only there to add warmth and liveliness to the description, to keep the attention of the reader and to enable one to grasp the message. The key to understanding the reading is what Peter says when he realizes what has happened: “Now I know for certain that the Lord sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod”. Salvation does not come from any initiative of his; it is the work of the Lord. What happened to Peter is a lesson for all disciples: God never abandons those who endanger their lives for the sake of the Gospel. Faithfulness to our Christian vocation may land us into a variety of difficulties. The reading invites all those who suffer for Christ to remember that even if all seems to be against them, they always have the “angel of the Lord” on their side.
The Psalm begins with a song of thanksgiving for God’s protection of his faithful and needy. It obviously, does not speak of either Peter or Paul; but it speaks for them, for its focus is entirely on God, who alone can make sense of their (and our, and the psalmist’s) lives. The psalmist, like Peter, has a powerful sense that God has responded to his danger.
2 Timothy 4:6-8, 17-18.
Paul looks back on his life and activity, and draws up a kind of balance sheet. He is like a competitor trying to win a race. All his energies were spent in the right cause, the spreading of the Gospel. The balance sheet that Paul is drawing up in his mind is not one of debits and credits / sins and good deeds, but one of accessing on how productive he has been with the gift of ‘Love’ and ‘Faith’ given to him by God. He is now old and worn out by the work and the struggles he endured. He puts his trust in the Lord, the ‘Just Judge’. Those competitors in ancient times who win receive a laurel crown. Paul is certain that the Lord will reward him with the crown of righteousness, when he dies. Such a crown of online casino salvation is not only for Paul, as God will offer it “to all who have longed for his appearance” (v.8), ‘that is to all who, like him, have loved’, worked for peace and toiled for justice. Like ‘Love’, ‘Salvation’ is a gift from God.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus and his disciples journey to the furthest end of the land under the control of the Romans, to Caesarea Philippi, a Gentile town forty-five kilometres north of Lake Galilee. In the Bible, physical journeys often signify spiritual progress, an occasion for growth in faith. The journey to Caesarea Philippi becomes a turning point in the life of Jesus. In his teaching and miracles, Jesus invited people to join him on a journey of faith, but their speed of travelling is very different. His disciples have faith but it is still small (Mk 16:8). The religious leaders reject him. Instead they accuse Jesus of working with the devil (Mt 9:34; 12:24), intend to destroy him (Mt 12:14) and now try to trap him (Mt 16:1). As for the crowd, they are journeying spiritually but slowly.
Some see Jesus as John the Baptist. They mistake the ‘messenger’ for the ‘Master’. For others Jesus is Elijah, the prophet who was expected to return at the time of the Messiah (Mt 3:23-24). For others still, Jesus is Jeremiah, the great prophet who has helped Israel not to lose hope of coming back after the exile (Jer. 30). They recognize Jesus as a great prophet speaking with God’s authority (Mt 7:29; 9:8). Yet they have still not recognized him as the ‘Messiah’ (Mt 13:53-58).
Shortly before setting out on their journey back to Jerusalem, Jesus asks them two questions. The first one is general: “Who do people say that I am”? They give several answers to show how people understand him so far. The second more personal question is addressed to the disciples: “But who do you say that I am”? Peter confesses that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. A rare moment in the Gospels, Peter has the right answer! In contrast with the many answers of the crowd, Matthew shows that for a disciple of Jesus, there is only one answer, the answer given by Peter, the spokesman for the disciples: Jesus is “the Christ” (Mt 16:16). It is often easier to report what others say than what we think ourselves. This is what the disciples experience in today’s Gospel.
Not only is Peter commended for his reply, but also he gets a new name, position and authority. Jesus’ words must have rushed passed Peter’s dazed mind like a waterfall: “The Rock, Church, Keys to the Kingdom of Heaven, Bound and Loosed”. These images, often used by the rabbis at the time of Jesus, describe the authority to transmit the teachings of Christ and to judge what agrees with the Gospel and what is contrary to it. Peter who has manifested and confessed his faith in Christ represents the apostles and all the Christians who profess the same faith, but what is his specific ministry? From now on we will see Peter taking the lead among the apostles. He appears as the equal of his colleagues but unique among them. Peter’s encounter with Jesus so transformed his life that he could be given this unique mission. There is no claim that he is better than the others. He will even deny Jesus three times but will repent and be reconfirmed in his mission.
In the Catholic tradition the Pope, as the Bishop of Rome, is the successor of Peter and presides over the communion of love in the whole Church, in union with all the bishops. The communion is maintained through the power of binding and loosing (Mt 18:18; Jn. 20:23). It is Peter’s humble service of ‘love’, which is not a dictatorship; that will keep the community of believers united in Christ and among themselves.
Today, Christian communities are sadly divided and split on this very issue. These divisions are caused by people and not by the words of Jesus. To rebuild unity we cannot expect that it be left to others to return to us. We must all unite, that is all denominations, and convert to the ‘Word of God’. We must abandon all things that are not evangelic in our way of understanding the ministry of the Pope and the authority of the Church. We must in particular adapt ourselves to what Jesus has so clearly and often repeated: The greatest among you must behave as if he were the smallest, the leader as if he were the one who serves”. It is not a dictatorship that will keep the community of believers united in Christ and among themselves, but a humble service of love like Peter’s. The believer is not in for an easy life, he will be persecuted, but – as we read in the first reading – the Lord always stands by his disciple.
The power of the ‘Keys’, and of ‘Loosing and Binding’, is God’s gift of love.
St Ireneus describes the ministry of the Pope, the bishop of Rome, thus: “he must preside over charity”.
‘Acknowledgement and Thanks’ to ‘Recommended Source Material’ by:
Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk, Fr. Fernando Armellini SCI, Peter Edmonds SJ, Richard Baawobr M.Afr, Joseph A. Slattery Ph.D, Adelmo Spagnolo MCCJ, Silvester O’Flynn OFM Cap, J.E. Spicer CSsR, John R. Donahue SJ and Alice Camille – Master’s degree in Divinity.
Reflections for each day this Week to lead us
in the ‘Way’:
Almighty God and Father, on the … of the week following the
Solemnity of Saints Peter & Paul, Apostles – Year A., we reflect on …
Sun. … Peter had denied Christ three times, but he had returned as a rock to strengthen and lead the Christian community and to preach the Gospel to the Jewish communities. Paul had persecuted Christ, but he had changed his ways to become the energetic apostle who pushed the reaches of the Gospel to the whole world. To become a Christian you cannot follow pagan rules, only Christ’s rules will do. Through Peter and Paul, Christ has established an authority (Church) to develop, explain and apply the rules. Both Peter and Paul were martyred in Rome under the persecution of the emperor Nero.
Mon. … In their final witness there is no doubt about their love for the Lord; in the end they are equal in love without reserve. It was due to their great love for the Lord that both apostles were able to rise to new heights in their faith. The law of love requires obedience. Ultimately, to love is to conform to the wishes of the one you love. Phony love insists on loving God, my way, rather than God’s way. Phony love is really love of myself, not of God. When we try to run our own life – alone – and when we shut out obedience to God, we only have our own power to draw on and that’s always too little.
Tues. … Consider the two scenes as they are described for us: Peter in prison, in Acts, stumbling before the angel who offers him God’s freedom. Paul in prison is a different story. Though no angel comes to the rescue, he counts on the Lord’s saving from the finality of death. If Pauls life was to end in tribulation, the words of Paul in Acts were coming true, that we must experience many hardships before we enter the kingdom of God (Acts 14:22).
Wed. … Peter gets the keys, and Paul gets the better part of the New Testament. It is ironic, really, that we Catholics base our authority on Peter, while Paul becomes the de facto pope of Protestants, who appeal to his authority as final.
Thurs. …Both understood the theology of reversals. Peter the underdog becomes the cornerstone of the future papacy. Paul, the man of incomparable orthodoxy, becomes the champion of those who dissent from the centre of orthodoxy. Only in the kingdom are such things natural.
Frid. … The Feast of Peter and Paul in itself has something off-centre about it. These men had one recorded encounter in Jerusalem and it was not exactly a meeting of the minds. Yet they are linked together eternally in this wonderful feast. Perhaps this is an ecumenical feast which offers new hope for divided Christianity. Peter continues
to talk to us from Rome, while Paul preaches to us in the heart of the Eucharist.
Sat. … In honouring Peter and Paul, we also celebrate the ancient foundations of the Church in Rome, which was to become the mother of all the Christian churches. The Church in Rome had these two great apostles and martyrs at its beginning, a fact that the community regarded as a unique privilege. In their faith foundation they had a double dimension: apostolic leadership and evangelical energy, both marks of the Church today.
Prayer after the Daily Reflection.
Heavenly Father, we pray for the virtue of obedience and that our faith be made strong with our love through the intercession of the blessed Apostles Peter and Paul. Through them you gave Your Church the foundations of her heavenly office. We pray that Your Church, the Bride of Christ, will lead us in the ‘Way’ to eternal salvation.
This we ask through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, forever and ever. Amen.