Today is the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul. These two saints are celebrated on the same day because Christ built his church on Saint Peter, and Saint Paul became the greatest evangelizer in the history of the church. These two saints were very different from each other and had a different mission, but together they did awesome things for the Lord Jesus and for His church. We are the beneficiaries of their efforts so it is right and fitting that we honor them today.
The first reading is totally awesome. It shows the power of the Lord in what seems to be a hopeless situation. Peter was chained up in prison between two guards and there were guards standing watch in front of the door too. Evidently they were all asleep, but in the dead of the night an angel appeared in Peter’s cell and woke him up. He wasn’t sure if it was real or not. Things can seem a little strange in the wee hours of the morning if we are unexpectedly awakened too. I’m sure we can all relate to this experience. But, Peter did what he was told and the angel led him safely out of prison. They walked right past all the sleeping guards and the iron gate opened all by itself and Peter walked out into the city to freedom. How awesome can that be? Surely Peter did a little dance of joy when he finally realized what had happened. Well, maybe he didn’t dance in the middle of the night but he surely gave a little exclamation of joy to be free.
There are many circumstances in the bible that God has spoken to people in dreams or sent an angel to them in their sleep though. We shouldn’t disregard a spiritual experience in our dreams either. We shouldn’t take all our dreams seriously, but maybe be a little more aware that God does reveal things of importance to us in our sleep sometimes.
However, this is beside the point. The second reading from the second book of Timothy is thought to have been written by Saint Paul or a close follower of Saint Paul, that was with him at the end of his life. The true author of the second book of Timothy continues to be debated among biblical scholars, but it is really of little consequence. The church recognizes the truth in Saint Paul’s words “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” And he certainly did. Saint Paul tirelessly gave his life for Christ right up until the last moments of his life. That is all that any of us can ever really hope for as well. Hopefully, we too will make it to the “finish line” with our faith still intact and look back at our life with little regrets. Sometimes we are so busy in life that we never really think about the big picture. Do you ever wonder if you are putting your life to good use for the Lord and for those you love and the people in your community too? We still have time to make some adjustments to our goals in life, if we need to.
Jesus certainly made one very major “adjustment” to Saint Peter’s life and the life of the entire church in today’s gospel. You can almost feel it in his words that Jesus knew ahead of time why he was asking the question that he did. “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” It’s also possible it was just a simple question but when Saint Peter answered Jesus, filled with the Holy Spirit and with all of his heart his words touched the Lord’s own heart.
Saint Peter said “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God” and Jesus knew that no human person had revealed this to him, but only his father in heaven. It makes you wonder if this was God’s way of showing Jesus which apostle loved him the most. Christ founded his church on this love. Love is still what guides the church. The Holy Spirit has guided the church for over 2,000 years and the gates of hell shall never prevail against it.
There has been another recent scandal in the Vatican this week, over a monsignor who walked out of the Vatican with close to a million dollars to pay off the mortgage on his personal residence. He has been arrested and is in custody now and the pope has ordered a full investigation into the matter. But, this should not alarm us too much. We are not to be naive about the scandals that have rocked our church in the past decade or so, but there have always been scandals and wrongdoing that the clergy and laity alike have committed throughout the centuries. Human beings sin and like Adam and Eve, we are not exempt from falling from grace either.
However, there is a remedy for that. It’s called confession. The last verse in today’s readings for mass is the basis for the Catholic belief in confession. Jesus said to Saint Peter “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” This power to “bind” and “loose” sin was given to Peter and his successors by Jesus Christ himself. But, we do have to approach the fount of mercy to receive his forgiveness and healing grace. Our mortal sins (like the Monsignor in the news this week) are bound until we have true contrition for our wrongdoing and confess it in the sacrament of confession. Priests do have the ability to gauge whether a person has genuine contrition for their sins and may even withhold absolution if there is good reason to do so. Many Catholics mistakenly believe they are required to grant absolution in all cases, but in the case of a mortal sin like murder, a priest may require the penitent to turn himself in to the police before absolution is granted.
But, let us put this behind us today and face our day with a clean slate. It is a new day and the future has yet to be written. Let us proceed with care concerning what we do with this day, and allow the Holy Spirit to guide us into the future as He has always done. We are the living body of Christ and our Lord will not abandon us on our own life’s journey. He is with us through it all.
Daily Mass Readings:
Acts 12: 1-11 / Ps 34: 2-3, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9 / 2 Tm 4: 6-8, 17-18 / Mt 16: 13-19