June 29, 2021

Peter and Paul

June 29, 2021:  SS. Peter and Paul, Apostles

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Legend below

Pope Francis homily

Peter and Paul were free because they were set free.  Peter, the fisherman from Galilee, was set free from his sense of inadequacy and experience of failure, thanks to Jesus' unconditional love.  Peter tasted fear and thought of giving up when he saw he'd catch nothing.  Though a disciple of the Lord, he thought by worldly standards, so didn't understand and accept the meaning of Christ’s cross.  Even after saying he'd give his life for Jesus, the suspicion that he was one of his disciples led him to denial.  Jesus nonetheless loved him and was willing to take a risk on him, encouraging him not to give up, giving him the joy of becoming a fisher of men, and calling him to strengthen his brothers in faith.  That was possible only because Peter had been set free.

Paul also experienced the freedom Christ brought, freedom from slavery to self and from from religious fervor that had made him persecute Christians.  But God didn't spare him the hardships that rendered his mission more fruitful, so Paul came to realize God chose the weak to shame the strong.

The Church sees in Peter and Paul Apostles who set the Gospel's power free in our world because their encounter with Christ set them free.  Jesus shared their life, as ours, with affection and closeness.  The Lord has touched and freed us, but we need to be freed repeatedly; only a free Church is credible.  Peter and Paul show us a Church entrusted to us but guided by the Lord with love and fidelity, a weak Church that finds strength in God's presence, that offers freedom the world can't give:  freedom from sin, death, resignation, and dehumanizing injustice and despair.  In giving his life, Jesus becomes a means of bringing us freedom.  May all freed by Christ be apostles of freedom.

1st-century key for St. Peter (Animate)
  • Acts 3:1-10  Peter to cripple at Temple gate:  “I have neither silver nor gold, but I give you what I have:  in the name of Jesus, rise and walk.”  He leaped up and walked around,  praising God.  They recognized him as the beggar and were astonished.
  • Ps 19:2-5 "Their message goes out through all the earth."  The heavens declare God's glory...
  • Gal 1:11-20  The Gospel came through a revelation of Christ.  I tried to destroy the Church, but God revealed his Son to me...
  • Jn 21:15-19  Jesus/Peter, “Do you love me?” / “You know I do.” / “Feed my lambs....  Tend my sheep...  Feed my sheep...  Follow me.”
1st-century book and sword for St. Paul
  • Acts 12:1-11  The Church was praying for Peter, whom King Herod imprisoned.  Angel to Peter:  “Get up, put on your belt, sandals, and cloak, and follow me!”  His chains fell, he dressed, he followed him past the guards, the gate opened, they went, and the angel left.  Peter:  “Now I know the Lord rescued me.”
  • Ps 34:2-9  "The angel of the Lord will rescue those who fear him."  I'll always bless the Lord; let's extol him together.  He delivered me.  Look to him and be radiant.  When the poor one called out, he heard and saved him.  Taste and see how good the Lord is...
  • 2 Tm 4:6-8, 17-18  Paul:  I'm being poured out; I've competed well, finished the race, and kept the faith.  The Lord will award a crown to me and to all who have longed for him.  He gave me strength so through me all Gentiles might hear the proclamation.  The Lord will rescue me and bring me safe to his Kingdom.
  • Mt 16:13-19  Jesus / disciples, at Caesarea Philippi:  “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” / “John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah or a prophet.” / “Who do you say I am?” / Simon Peter:  “The Christ, Son of the living God.” / “Blessed are you, Simon; my Father revealed this to you.  You're Peter, and upon this rock I'll build my Church.  I'll give you the keys to the Kingdom; what you bind or loose shall be so in heaven.”
  • Commentary on Jesus' questions to Peter in the vigil gospel:  love vs. love....
  • About "binding and loosing" (daytime gospel, future perfect tense); it also includes exegetical links and online resources to compare and explore Bible texts
  • Creighton:  St. Augustine suggests that choosing one date to celebrate them, though they likely died on different days, honors their oneness in following Christ.  
The first reading tells us about Peter’s liberation from prison.  Herod was killing and jailing people associated with the Church to please his constituents, putting extra guards on Peter to make his captivity a spectacle, demonstrating his power.  Lacking moral compass, guided only by efforts to shore up his power by seeking others' approval from others.  People with no moral compass who pursue their will wind up empty and dissatisfied.  People-pleasing success is fleeting: Herod basked in the crowd's flattery, but then an angel struck him dead, and worms ate him.  We too seek approval and ignore the right thing, but truth exposes this weakness.  Humility and respect produce a better outcome than hubris. 

Paul's metaphor about finishing a race and receiving a crown resonates with those who have trained to compete, perhaps satisfied from a strong performance.  The crown is awarded to all who run well.  Paul remains confident, even though he senses that the end is near.  He didn't escape death, but the Lord rescued him and brought him to his Kingdom.  May we too hold on when tried. 

In the gospel Jesus promises to build his Church, which grows despite hardships.  Do we have a sense of wonder that the Church persists today?
St. Peter and St. Paul/ El Greco
  • One Bread, One Body:  How did Jesus intend to hand on the faith to future generations?  He chose a lowly fisherman to lead the Church.  Peter felt unworthy: "Leave me, Lord; I'm a sinner."
Paul also had a rocky start:  “I'm the least of the apostles;  because I persecuted the church, I don't deserve the name.” But Jesus said, “This man is the instrument I've chosen to bring My name to the Gentiles.”  If you’re feeling unworthy, join the club! We tend to place saints on a pedestal, but many have humble beginnings.  Look to Peter and Paul for inspiration; we're touched by grace like they were.
  • Passionist:  Peter and Paul recognized God had called them to be something greater, had courage to speak the truth Christ had spoken to them, endured hardship, and kept believing.  Even in prison Peter hoped in Christ; he listened and followed the angel, who had to wake him up.  If he was asleep, he wasn't afraid of the upcoming trial.  The passion he felt about Jesus must have grounded his hope and courage. He was open to the possibility Jesus was the Messiah and confirmed it when asked, “Who do you say that I am?”  Paul was also in prison, unafraid of death; he knew he'd completed what Christ had called him to do.  Once passionate about his Jewish faith to the point of persecuting Christians, he saw a flash of light, fell down, heard Jesus, and began to carry the gospel to the Gentiles.  He wasn't afraid to recognize and act on the truth in his heart.  May each of us have faith and hope in Christ and become something greater.  What is he calling you to?
  • DailyScripture.net:  "You are the Christ, Son of the living God":  Peter and Paul worked to spread the gospel to Israel and the nations, risking their lives and pouring out their blood in loyalty to Christ.  Peter recognized Jesus as the "anointed one" (Messiah, Christ) and Son of God; only God could have revealed this to him.  Jesus gave Peter authority to govern the church, giving him the name "rock" (Aramaic, Greek), a great compliment.  Rabbis said that when God saw Abraham, he exclaimed:  "I've discovered a rock to found the world on."  Abraham put his trust in God and founded his faith and life on God's word; through him God established a nation.  Through faith Peter grasped who Jesus was.  The church, the people of God, is a spiritual house and temple of the Holy Spirit with members joined as living stones.  Faith in Christ makes us into spiritual stones.  "Who do you say I am?"
      • Peter put his foot in his mouth, panicked on the water, blundered after professing faith, refused to be washed, and betrayed his master.  Yet he was chosen as rock on which the Church is built over James, John, or financially savvy Judas.  The Church’s foundation-stone and first leader is not all-wise, all-knowing, good, heroic, and beautiful but an ordinary man; if he'd been great and noble hero, we could have despaired of becoming like him and told ourselves the Church is only for saints.  But the Church is for confused, impetuous, cowardly people like him and us; grace holds it together and helps it grow.  Grace taught Peter patience and forbearance and helped him bear witness when it counted.  Admire that grace and pray we may receive and use it too.
      • Paul:  Many don't find him attractive, saying he badgered people into submission or invented a Christianity worse than Christ's, but God needed and called him, and he said and did what God wanted.  Paul reminds people of his weakness.  May we love the Lord our God with heart, soul, mind, and strength as Paul did.
    Dress legend (d: daytime; v: vigil)
    • Watch (not visible):  Guards kept 'watch' on the prison (1st reading d); 3:00 (1st reading v)
    • 'Money' tie pin:  Beggar asked for alms (1st reading v)
    • 'Walker/runner' tie pin:  "I have finished the race" (2nd reading d); "in the name of Jesus, walk" (1st reading v)
    • 'Blood drop' pin:  Peter's martyrdom; "flesh and blood didn't reveal this to you" (gospel d); "I didn't consult flesh and blood" (2nd reading v)
    • 'Hand' tie pin:  Herod laid hands on some Church members (1st reading d); the time of Paul's departure is at 'hand' (2nd reading d); Peter took the beggar by the hand,... (1st reading v); "you will stretch out your hands" (gospel v)
    • 'Feet' tie pin:  ...and his feet and ankles grew strong (1st reading v)
    • "JC" chain:  "You are the Christ" / "Follow me" (gospel d); God revealed his Son to me (2nd reading v); "follow me" (gospel v)
    • 'Sword' tie bar:  Herod had James killed by the sword (1st reading d)
    • 'Street light' tie bar:  Light shone in the cell (1st reading d)
    • Tie bar with descending chains:  Chains fell from Peter's wrists (1st reading d)
    • 'Angel' pin:  The angel of the Lord frees Peter from prison (1st reading d); "the angel of the Lord delivers those who fear him" (psalm d)
    • 'Wheat' pin:  It was the feast of Unleavened Bread (1st reading d)
    • 'Chalice' tie pin:  I am being poured out like a libation (2nd reading d)
    • 'Phone' tie bar"  God 'called' me through his grace (2nd reading v)
    • "Prayer, the original wireless connection" T-shirt (hard to see):  The Church was praying for Peter (2nd reading d)
    • 'Car with mouth' pin:  The Lord's praise shall be ever in my mouth (psalm d)
    • 'Musical notes with "joy" tie pin:  Look to the Lord and be radiant with joy (psalm d)
    • 'Clock' pin:  "I'll bless the Lord at all times" (psalm d)
    • Tie with globes:  Through all the earth their voice resounds (psalm v)
    • Belt and sandals (not shown):  “Put on your belt and your sandals.” (1st reading d) [call me a 'belt and suspenders man']
    • 'Caged lion' pin:  Cage for prison (1st reading d), lion for "I was rescued from the lion’s mouth." (2nd reading d)
    • 'Crown' tie bar:  "The crown of righteousness awaits me" (2nd reading d)
    • '?' tie pin:  “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” / “Who do you say I am?” (gospel d)
    • 'Rock' tie pin:  "Upon this rock I will build my Church" (gospel d)
    • 'Keys' tie pins:  "I'll give you the keys to the Kingdom.” (gospel d)
    • Red shirt:  Color of the day, martyrdom of SS. Peter and Paul
    • 'Eyeball' pin:  Peter thought he was seeing a vision (1st reading); Taste and see the Lord's goodness (psalm d); Peter looked intently at the beggar (1st reading v); people saw the man walking (1st reading v)
    • Flesh-colored suspenders:  "Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father" (gospel d); I didn't consult flesh and blood (2nd reading v)
    • 'Lamb' tie bar:  "Feed my lambs" (gospel v)
    • 'Sheep' tie bar:  "Tend my sheep" (gospel v)
    • 'Helm' tie pin:  Someone will lead you where you don't want to go (gospel v)
    • 'Heart' tie bar:  “Do you love me?” / "You know I do" (gospel v)

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